Kentucky What If:
Part 2 of Kentucky What If: 2011
Fresh off winning a national title and completing the perfect season, Kentucky returned a few key pieces in preparation of defending their title:
PG: Brandon Knight
SG: Eric Bledsoe
SF: Darius Miller
PF: Daniel Orton
C: Enes Kanter
Bench: Harrellson, Liggins, Hood, Lamb Poole
*Due to Daniel Orton returning for his sophomore season, Terrence Jones remained committed to Washington.
Kentucky entered the season already behind the ball, with freshman Center Enes Kanter being suspended until conference play (after the NCAA did the RIGHT thing and allow him to return to the team after returning any illegal benefits). Kentucky started out 4-0, until suffering the first loss under the Cal Era in Maui vs UConn team. Kentucky bounced back, winning 9 straight and beating the likes of UNC, ND, IU and UL along the way.
Entering conference play, Josh Harrellson (aka Jorts) had been making the most his time in Kanters absence. Freshman guard Brandon Knight was also starting to come into his own, while sophomore Eric Bledsoe led the conference in scoring. After struggling in the SEC opener at Georgia, UK finished conference play with only one loss and was set to enter SEC tourney play at 29-2
SEC Tournament: Kentucky breezed through conference tournament play, beating up on Ole Miss, Alabama and Florida, clinching a #1 seed.
Round #1: UTSA
Kentucky took care of business fairly easily, beating the Road Runners 88-44, to advance to the 2nd Round.
Round #2: George Mason
George Mason shocked the world in 2006 by making the Final Four… This year would offer no such narrative. Enes Kanter put up a triple double and win 84-56.
Sweet 16: West Virginia
Attack of Bob Huggins and his press defense again, expect this time, two guards that could handle the pressure. Knight and Bledsoe broke free early and often to both score 20+ points. 77-66, good guys win and advance to Elite 8.
Elite 8: UNC
Kentucky pulled out to a 15 point lead early in the 2nd half, only to have UNC and Tyler Zeller erase it. Coming back from the under four min timeout, UNC actually led by 1, but this is where the vets come in and Bledsoe knocking down big 3 after big 3. Kentucky holds on to win 72-64 to advance to back to back Final Fours.
Final Four: UConn
Attempting to get revenge on an early season loss, the Cats and Huskies met in Houston for a chance to go to the championship game. It was a physical game that saw multiple players foul out. In the final seconds, UConn tied up the game by knocking down two FT. For the final play, Knight heaved the ball passed mid court to Kanter, to lateraled the ball to Bledsoe for the game winning 3, to win 72-69.
Championship: Ohio St
Kentucky attempting to become the 3rd team in 50 years to go back to back. The game brought an intense physical matchup in the paint, Jared Sullinger vs Enes Kanter. However, the real hero was Brandon Knight. With 10 seconds left, he pulled up from 12 feet out and hit the shot that gave UK a 62-60 lead and it’s ninth National Championship!
Kentucky finished the season 38-2.
Four players once again entered the draft.
Enes Kanter: #2 (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Brandon Knight: #8 (Detroit Pistons)
Eric Bledsoe: #10 (Milwaukee Bucks)
Danial Orton: #16 (Philadelphia 76ers)
Stay Tuned for 2011-2012