The March To March: Can anyone clip the 'Cats?

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

Philadelphia, PA ( - "I was hoping that was vodka," Kansas coach Bill Self said after taking a sip of water in a press conference following his team's 72-40 loss to Kentucky on Nov. 18.

Self isn't the only coach that's needed a swig after having to play the Wildcats this season.

Kentucky's not only looking to run the table, it may break the bank.

But can a bunch of teenagers and 20-somethings really become the first team since Indiana in 1976 to finish a season undefeated?

It's possible.

Coach John Calipari's 'Cats sport an NCAA-record nine former McDonald's All- Americans and have more size than some NBA teams, with six players on the roster 6-foot-9 or taller.

Due to that length, Kentucky is on pace to become the most efficient defense in NCAA history -- at least since has tracked the statistic. The Wildcats are allowing opponents to score just 82.3 points per 100 possessions.

So basically once you struggle to successfully navigate past one Wildcat defender who is 6-foot-10, you've got a 7-footer behind him ready to swat your shot several rows into the seats.

The Wildcats, who are outscoring their adversaries by 25.7 points per game, are blocking a nation-leading 7.9 shots per game and allowing opponents to shoot just 31.7 percent from the floor.

Since Kentucky was drowning with stars after several players from last year's national championship runner-up team returned, Calipari employed two five-man platoons. The Blue Platoon is made up of starters, while the White Platoon features what Calipari likes to call "reinforcements."

"If you take their first and second teams and split them up, they'd probably have the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the nation," SMU coach Larry Brown told USA Today in a November article concerning the Wildcats.

We got our first good look at the platoon system in the Champions Classic against Kansas. The Jayhawks made only 11 field goals -- just three in the second half -- had 11 shots blocked and shot 19.6 percent from the floor.

More blowouts followed.

Kentucky defeated then-No. 6 Texas -- one of the handful of squads that comes close to matching the Wildcats' size -- 63-51 on Dec. 5, rolled past North Carolina 84-70 on Dec. 13, beat UCLA in a laugher, 83-44, on Dec. 20 and took care of its Bluegrass rival and the then-No. 4 Cardinals 58-50 on Dec. 27 in Louisville.

"I don't know in my 20 years coaching at the Division I level that I've coached against a better team than what this team looks like," Bruins coach Steve Alford said following his team's loss to UK. "I'm a firm believer they've got a chance to run this thing out. They're that good. They're that talented."

The Wildcats got off to a 24-0 start in that one and were up 41-7 at the half. UCLA was 3-of-37 from the floor in the opening 20 minutes.

If there is a weakness, it's the youth. The young Cats have gotten up for the big programs, but have also played down to lesser competition.

Kentucky trailed by five against Buffalo at halftime before pulling away for a 71-52 win on Nov. 16 and Columbia held a 25-23 edge at the break in Lexington on Dec. 10. The Wildcats eventually prevailed 56-46 in that one.

Then conference play began and Kentucky looked even more vulnerable.

It needed overtime to dispatch Ole Miss 89-86 on Jan. 6 and a pair of extra sessions to take down Texas A&M 70-64 in College Station four days later.

The Wildcats have responded, though, winning their next two SEC games by a combined 71 points. They thrashed Missouri 86-37 on Tuesday, then walloped Alabama 70-48 in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.

The question has been posed, does Kentucky have a go-to guy that it can turn to in the waning minutes of the close game?

It's a fair question, but Aaron Harrison is used to hitting big shots. His NCAA Tournament run last season speaks for itself. And with all the length inside, the Wildcats snatch an NCAA-leading 43.8 percent of missed shots and will therefore be attempting more field goals down the stretch in potential close encounters.

While nobody has gone through a season unscathed since the Hoosiers, a few have come close, although just two have made it to the NCAA Tournament without a loss.

A stacked UNLV team, which featured five future pros including Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony, was 34-0 before falling to Duke in the Final Four. Last year's Wichita State squad, of course, fell to eighth-seeded Kentucky in the third round in what turned out to be the game of the tournament.

Saint Joseph's began 27-0 during the 2003-04 campaign prior to an 87-67 loss to Xavier in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The Hawks then fell to second-seeded Oklahoma State in the Elite Eight of the Big Dance. Tony Allen nailed a go-ahead 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds remaining to lift the Cowboys, 64-62.

Illinois was 29-0 in 2004-05, but lost its regular-season finale to Ohio State when Matt Sylvester knocked down a go-ahead triple with 5.1 ticks to play to vault the Buckeyes to a 65-64 triumph.

Calipari has flirted with perfection before. His 2007-08 Memphis team started 26-0 before losing to rival Tennessee. The Tigers weren't defeated again until Kansas nipped them in the title game.

The Wildcats are still 23 games away from perfection, but if they can keep it going, it'll be Calipari taking swigs.

His youngsters won't be allowed to.

Cutting down the nets will have to do.


MIDWEST (Cleveland)

1. Kentucky* vs. 16. Monmouth*/Alabama State* winner

8. Oklahoma State vs. 9. SMU

4. Louisville vs. 13. Northeastern*

5. VCU* vs. 12. Western Kentucky*

6. Stanford vs. 11. Tulsa*

3. Maryland* vs. 14. UL Monroe*

7. Providence vs. 10. Colorado State

2. Kansas vs. 15. North Dakota State*

WEST (Los Angeles)

1. Duke vs. 16. Albany*

8. Iowa vs. 9. LSU

4. West Virginia vs. 13. Sam Houston State*

5. Seton Hall vs. 12. Harvard*

6. Baylor vs. 11. Miami-Florida/St. John's winner

3. Utah vs. 14. Eastern Kentucky*

7. Cincinnati vs. 10. Michigan State

2. Gonzaga* vs. 15. Bryant*

EAST (Syracuse)

1. Virginia* vs. 16. Colgate*/Grand Canyon* winner

8. Georgetown vs. 9. Dayton

4. Wichita State* vs. 13. NC Central*

5. Oklahoma vs. 12. Wyoming*

6. Butler vs. 11. NC State/George Washington winner

3. Iowa State vs. 14. Coastal Carolina*

7. San Diego State vs. 10. Washington

2. Wisconsin vs. 15. Sacramento State*

SOUTH (Houston)

1. Villanova* vs. 16. North Florida*

8. Old Dominion vs. 9. Indiana

4. North Carolina vs. 13. UC Davis

5. Texas vs. 12. Buffalo*

6. Arkansas vs. 11. Kansas State*

3. Notre Dame vs. 14. Cleveland State*

7. Northern Iowa vs. 10. Xavier

2. Arizona* vs. 15. Mercer*



Ohio State








* - denotes conference leader. In a result of a tie atop the standings, the team with the higher RPI was chosen.