Kentucky had had one of the most thrilling four-game stretches in recent NCAA Tournament memory, defeating Wichita State, Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin by a combined 11 points. The Wildcats are the first team to win four straight NCAA games by five points or fewer. Incredibly, only one other team in NCAA history has won four games in a row after trailing at the half in all of them (Kansas, 2012). In crunch time – surely everyone has their own definition, but for the sake of this post, let’s go with the final five minutes – the Wildcats have been dominant. I charted the last five minutes of each of their last four games, and the numbers are staggering:
Kentucky vs. Wichita State:
11-of-14 FTs, 2-3 FGs, 16-10 run to end the game
Kentucky vs. Louisville:
4-7 FG, 8-9 FT, 17-5 run to end the game
Kentucky vs. Michigan
5-6 FG, actually outscored 14-13 to end the game
Kentucky vs. Wisconsin
3-7 FG, 2-3 FT, 7-4 run to end the game
From the field: 14-of-23 (60.8 percent)
From the free throw line: 21-of-26 (80.7 percent)
Outscored opponents 53-33.
Yes, 20 minutes over a four game stretch is a tiny sample size. At the same time, one could argue these four 5-minute stretches is all that has mattered this season for Kentucky, because now it is playing for the Title. There really is no frame of reference for something like this. Kentucky starts five freshman. Aren’t freshman supposed to crumble in crunch time?
Over the last four games, you can throw all the advanced stats out, because they simply haven’t mattered at all. According to the advanced stats, Kentucky was supposed to lose each of these last four games (per Ken Pomeroy’s site). The same site had Connecticut also losing its last four games to Florida, Michigan State, Iowa State and Villanova.
And now, because you feel like laughing, and because Kentucky can’t possibly continue this magic for one more game, here are the Wildcats regular season shooting numbers:
* Tied for 110th in field goal shooting at 45.4 percent
* Tied for 242nd in free throw shooting at 67.9
So Connecticut wins tonight, right?