PHOENIX — Admittedly, they’re all biased. But then, what NBA player wouldn’t be when talking about his alma mater.
To no one’s surprise, each of the three Phoenix Suns players who spent their college days at Kentucky have the Wildcats cutting down the nets at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis on April 6 for the school’s ninth NCAA national championship.
“They’re going to win it all. Easy,” Archie Goodwin said.
“They’re too good. They’re just too good,” responded Goodwin, the leading scorer at 14.1 points per game in his one and only season at Kentucky in 2012-13. “I mean, they just have too many guys. Every guy that plays for the most part could start at any other college, easy, and be the best player on the team. You got 10 guys like that; nobody is going to beat you.”
Kentucky, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest Region, is the overwhelmingly odds-on favorite to win and become the first team since Indiana in 1976 to finish undefeated.
“I’m very impressed. They’re making history. Not that many teams that went undefeated for a season,” Eric Bledsoe said. “Any team that faces them is going to be in trouble.”
Added Brandon Knight about the 34-0 Wildcats, “It’s definitely impressive, but for them I just hope they can re-focus for the tournament.”
And therein lays perhaps the biggest obstacle standing in the way of Kentucky — the pressure to be perfect.
“A lot of people are putting pressure on them to try to have that perfect season,” Knight said. “For them, I just want, hopefully, they can get out to a game and not feel like they have the pressure of going undefeated; just play the way they’ve been playing and they’ll be fine.”
Of the three Suns players, Knight came the closest to a national championship. His 2010-11 Kentucky squad in which he averaged a team-best 17.3 points advanced to the Final Four before losing to eventual winner Connecticut in the national semifinal.
Knight said he and his teammates never felt any pressure during their run.
“Because we weren’t supposed to be there,” he said, smiling. “Those guys are supposed to win it, so we were in different shoes. I know they’re probably feeling a little bit different than I felt. For us, we had something to prove and for them, everybody thinks they’re supposed to win it, so it’s a little bit different mindset.”
Bledsoe may have had the most talented Kentucky team, playing alongside future NBAers John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson in 2009-10. But that season, John Calipari’s first with the Wildcats, ended in the regional final to second-seed West Virginia, 73-66.
“I love him,” Bledsoe said of Calipari. “He’s one of the best college coaches that I’ve seen. If you ask me, he’s the best college coach, I think.”
It’s because of Calipari, all three agreed, that Kentucky finds itself in a position to etch its name in the record books, finishing 40-0.
“It shows the maturity of their team that they really bought into winning, and that’s why they are doing like they are now,” Goodwin said. “I feel like they could probably go down as the best college team to ever be if they go all the way, especially with the bracket that they have going into the tournament.
“I think they’re going to do it. I hope they do.”