If Billy Kennedy hasn’t gotten many calls this March about how to beat Kentucky, well, he should have.
No, Kennedy’s Texas A&M Aggies did not beat Kentucky this year, but they came awfully close, taking the Wildcats to double overtime on January 10 before ultimately losing, 70-64.
But what was the key to making a game of it? After all, not many teams have been able to do that against John Calipari’s bunch this season.
“We wanted to protect the paint and limit them to one shot,” Kennedy said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “That was the whole thing – and make them beat us form the arc and not give them any transition baskets. For the most part, we did that. I think we out-rebounded them.”
Actually, they did not – but it was close. Kentucky held a 53-52 advantage on the boards. Given the Wildcats’ superior size, however, that was more or less a victory for the Aggies.
“We got to the free-throw line a bunch,” Kennedy added. “Unfortunately, we didn’t make free throws. That was a big reason why we lost.”
Indeed, the Aggies shot just 16-of-30 (53.3 percent) from the line. They also shot just 33.3 percent from the floor and 13.3 percent (2-of-15) from three-point range.
And they still took the Cats to double overtime.
What does this mean? It means that Wisconsin (35-3) has at least a decent chance of beating Kentucky (38-0) in the Final Four this Saturday. The Badgers have size, they have skill, they have experience – and they want revenge for last season.
“I think (they can win),” Kennedy said. “I really do. I think Wisconsin plays the style of play and has the size and will protect inside-out, and they value the ball on the offensive end as well as anybody in the country. They’re an experienced team that has some confidence in knowing . . . what they can do.”
The Wildcats, to be fair, aren’t the same team that they were almost three months ago when they were pushed to the brink in College Station.
“They’ve gotten better,” Kennedy confirmed. “I think the thing that goes unrecognized by many is how well they play at the end of the games in special situations. The last six seconds against Notre Dame and how they defended the three-point shot at the end of the game was exactly what they did against us when we played them at home. We had five or six opportunities to win the game, and they made every right play and every big play that they had to. They did it against LSU. They did it against the other teams in our league that were close to them.”
All of which is to say that Saturday’s showdown between Kentucky and Wisconsin should be a classic.
Just don’t tell that to Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who recently said that watching college basketball is “absolute torture.”
“Well, he’s absolutely wrong,” said Kennedy, citing some of the ratings for the tournament. “I think that’s totally off-base. There is some ugly basketball and it’s because teams are really good defensively. It’s because teams know everybody. Our guys play against each other at this level in the AAU circuit from eighth grade on, and they’re not afraid of them. There’s so many factors that play into that. I totally disagree with that.”