March Madness Lines on Kentucky to Make it to the Final Four

Posted by Joe Solari on Thursday,March 17, 2016 1:47, EST in

At around this time last year, the Kentucky Wildcats were basking in the limelight of being a unanimous No. 1 seed and a flawless winning record the throughout the regular season and the SEC Tournament. Right now, the Wildcats are coming off a tumultuous regular season, though they made up for it with a strong run in the NCAA Tournament that saw them win the SEC Championship. Unfortunately for them, the Selection Sunday committee wasn’t that impressed by Kentucky’s resume on the season, placing them as a No.4 in the Eastern Region and forcing rage out of Coach John Calipari, who felt that his team deserved a better seeding. But what’s done is done, so the Wildcats—like every other team that felt short-changed in the seeding (Hello Michigan State!)—will have to pucker up with the decision and find a way of overcoming the obstacles in the March Madness odds for a chance to reach the Final Four and beyond.

And that brings us to the million-dollar question; can the fourth-seeded play enough to make a another Final Four appearance after going all the way to the National Championship Game last year? Let’s find out, as we take a succinct look at the road ahead for Kentucky in its quest to outdance its way into the top of the nation.

March Madness Lines on Kentucky to Make it to the Final Four

The East is a Beast!

The East Region looks as rugged and unpredictable as ever, as it features some of the best teams in the nation, something that guarantees Kentucky a tough climb towards the Final Four. On paper, there seem to be four schools who could go on to win a National Championship in the East Region, led by the No. 1 seed North Carolina, who are joined by West Virginia, Xavier and of course Kentucky, if the ball bounces right for the Wildcats.

Not to be left out of the conversation are the Indiana Hoosiers (who play a soft Chattanooga team in the first round) and the duo of Pittsburgh and Wisconsin who go against each other in first round. Now, the Pirates and Badgers are quite beatable, so I wouldn’t worry much about them if Kentucky was to play either of them along the way. Indiana, on the other hand, can be a tricky opponent, but the Hoosiers’ perennial ability to sputter at the wrong time means that this team from Assembly Hall will almost certainly drown itself in its oblivion sooner rather than later.

That leaves us with the trio of UNC, WVU and Xavier as the teams to beat. Now, starting with the Tar Heels, I really don’t see Kentucky beating them, unless ACC’s best player, Brice Johnson, has an off-day. And even if that happens, head Coach Roy Williams is a proven tactician for the Big Dance, so he should be able to figure out a way of using his other talented players like Marcus Paige to get the job done. Not that Kentucky isn’t talented; it’s just that the UNC is deeper in terms of talent in the starting five and bench, leaving the Wildcats with a tall order.

West Virginia, a.k.a. Press Virginia, is mostly fearsome because of its perfected art of using fullcourt press and using its big men for easy baskets around the rim. But then again, I really think Kentucky can handle the Mountaineers if they do meet at some point in the tournament.

The same cannot, however, be said for the Musketeers. This is a very solid Xavier team that played very well in the Big East (including splitting its two matchups with tournament contender Villanova) and notably went 6-1 against ranked opponents this year. If Kentucky meets the Musketeers, I see nothing but doom for Calipari’s boys, unless something goes cosmically wrong for Xavier (like some major injuries or something like that).

Final Remarks and Betting Predictions

So where does all that leave us? Well, based on the above analysis. I’m inclined to say that Kentucky will make it through the Round of 64, and then also make it past the Round of 32, leaving the Wildcats standing with UNC, WVU and Xavier in the Sweet 16. Once in the Sweet 16, things will be getting tricky, mainly because I foresee a Kentucky vs. North Carolina matchup at that point. And given what we’ve said about the top-ranked Tar Heels, I really think we will be having UNC and Xavier in the Elite Eight, with either of them progressing to the next stage as the East Region’s representative in the Final Four. Of course, things could change for the better or worse in the East, depending on any upsets that may be witnessed along the way, but as things stand now, I strongly believe that Kentucky will only go as far as the Sweet 16. But if they somehow do make it past that stage, then change your picks and take them to go all the way to the National Championship game because Calipari would never allow his team to blow up another chance for the national title for the second year in a row.