Well, so much for that.
Despite being a trendy upset pick this week – and despite freshman guard Daxter Miles Jr. guaranteeing a victory – No. 5 West Virginia was outmatched, outclassed and embarrassed by No. 1 Kentucky on Thursday, falling behind 18-2, trailing by as many as 41 and ultimately losing, 78-39.
The Mountaineers, outmatched at every position, didn’t break 20 points until almost halfway through the second half. In short, they were obliterated.
“I thought they would play better,” CBS Sports play-by-play announcer Ian Eagle said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I thought their style would be something a little bit different than what Kentucky has seen. I thought the way they bought into Bob Huggins and the fact that he goes 13 deep and he can make a hockey line change and bring four new players in at one time if things aren’t working – (I thought they had a chance). But they never got out of the gate. Watching that game early, they just didn’t look like the same team that I saw last weekend in Columbus that had no fear and played as one. That has not been the case here. They’ve made West Virginia like very ordinary.”
The Wildcats improved to 37-0 and will face No. 3 Notre Dame (32-5) in the Elite Eight this Saturday at 8:49 p.m. ET.
Kentucky is three games away from history.
“I had them the final regular-season game in the SEC against Florida when they were trying to complete the perfect regular season, and I went to practice the day before,” Eagle said. “I’ve been to many John Calipari practices through the years, and he’s had some extraordinary teams. The difference that struck me with this particular group – they just don’t seem fazed by any of it. They have tremendous body language. Anytime they’ve faced a deficit this season, they’ve handled their business. They’ve remained under control. There’s no panic.
“I know with Kentucky, it’s a younger group,” Eagle continued. “It’s always going to be a younger group. That’s what John does and he’s perfected it. He’s got a machine going right now. But they don’t look or play like a younger group. They’ve got almost an old soul about them and it seems like the perfect combination. They can absolutely pull this thing off and go the entire season undefeated and make history in the process.”
It’ll be interesting to see what happens if Kentucky and No. 1 Wisconsin meet again in the Final Four. The Badgers (343) must first beat No. 2 Arizona (34-3) in the Elite Eight this Saturday at 6:09 p.m. ET, but Scott Ferrall isn’t convinced that Wisconsin/Kentucky would be the classic it was a season ago.
Eagle feels the same way.
“It’s different,” he said. “There’s a whole different vibe around this (Kentucky) team. They’re more professional. They’re just more professional about how they conduct themselves, the objective in mind. This team has taken every cue from its head coach. They have bought in to the limit.”