NCAA Focus Now on Kentucky
Now that Kansas, the overall top seed in the NCAA men's basketball tournament, is gone after losing Saturday to Northern Iowa, the attention shifts to Kentucky as the heavy favorite.
A big question is whether freshmen John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins, the leading scorers, can handle that burden, along with fellow rookie starter Eric Bledsoe.
"We're still a bunch of freshmen and sophomores," Kentucky coach John Calipari said after beating Wake Forest by 30. "The guys that we're playing have never played in (the tournament)."
He was downplaying expectations but had a valid point about inexperience. No freshman has led a team to a championship since Carmelo Anthony did it for Syracuse in 2003, though others have come close. Ohio State reached the 2007 final with rookies Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. but lost to Florida. Memphis played in the 2008 final with freshman Derrick Rose and lost to Kansas.
Anthony was the first freshman to be Final Four MVP since Louisville's Pervis Ellison in 1986.
When the NCAA unveiled the bracket, television analyst Jay Bilas picked 12th-seeded Cornell to reach the Elite Eight, a notable choice considering Kentucky was also in the East Regional. The teams meet Thursday in a regional semifinal in Syracuse, N.Y.
"Cornell is really good," Bilas said. "And I've been saying this since October: There isn't a great team in college basketball this season."
But in Bilas' eyes, Kentucky looks a lot better lately. He did color commentary for its first- and second-round wins and left impressed by the Wildcats' improvement. They beat East Tennessee State by 29 before crushing Wake Forest.
Nobody in the tournament was as powerful the first weekend as Kentucky and Syracuse, another No. 1 seed, Bilas said.