BY LARRY VAUGHT
ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes thinks there are seven teams that can win the national championship, and Kentucky is now one of them.
He has Duke, Virginia, Tennessee, Michigan, Michigan State and Gonzaga on his list along with the Wildcats.
“I really think the national champion will come from those seven teams,” Dykes, a former UK assistant coach, said. “If PJ (Washington) keeps playing the way he has been, Kentucky could find itself in the Final Four and I didn’t think in December I would say that. Kentucky is playing as well as anybody right now.”
Washington had three straight games with 20 or more points snapped in UK’s win at Florida when he had 15 points and 12 rebounds but that was his third straight double-double – the first time a UK player has done that since Julius Randle in 2014.
Put ESPN analyst Dick Vitale in the same boat as Dykes.
“I like this team better than last year’s team, I love the depth factor and the versatility. No reason Kentucky can’t be a Final Four team,” Vitale said.
It’s basically the same thing Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said after the Cats had his team down 30 points at halftime last week and held Vandy to 15 points in the first half. The week before it was coaches Ben Howland of Mississippi State and Bill Self of Kansas putting UK in that elite category.
“If Kentucky plays defense like it has been and knocks down 3’s, it can win a national championship,” ESPN analyst Jay Williams said.
Kentucky coach John Calipari believes five to seven teams have “separated” themselves from others, but are not unbeatable as Kentucky almost found out before rallying from an 11-point deficit in the second half at Florida Saturday to win.
“You never know in this thing. If you have a streaky kind of shooting team — my first year in 2010 that’s what we had then we go 0-for-16 from the 3-point line in a game (against West Virginia) and we lose (in the Elite Eight),” Calipari said.
That was the UK team that had John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson and Eric Bledsoe — all still playing in the NBA.