This was the game of the year in college basketball, and maybe in all of sports..
The Midwest Region aka the Region of Death has taken another casualty. The 35-0 Wichita State Shockers took their first loss of the season against the young and talented #8 Kentucky Wildcats. The Shockers trailed by two and Wichita State guard Fred VanVleet came up short in a three point attempt to give Kentucky the 78-76 victory and a trip to the Sweet 16.
This game was an instant classic as the two teams traded blows and left everything on the floor from the opening tap. Kentucky knocked down clutch free throws at the end of the game to pick up the win. This is the fourth time in five years that Kentucky has advanced to the Sweet 16 under head coach John Calipari.
This is not that big of an upset victory as Kentucky is loaded with talented young players. The Wildcats also started the season with the preseason #1 ranking, and almost took down #1 Florida in the SEC Championship game a week ago. Kentucky had some tough stretches throughout the regular season but they are finally starting to play at a championship level when it matters the most. Three freshman led the way for Kentucky as Andrew Harrison finished with 20 points. His twin brother Aaron scored 19 points and Julius Randle added 13 points for the Wildcats.
Cleanthony Early of Wichita State put on a show as he scored 31 points for the Shockers. Kentucky had no answer for him and Ron Baker who finished the game with 20 points. Wichita State is coming off of an incredible Final Four run last year and looked to take the next step with a perfect record and national championship expectations. The NCAA committee received a ton of criticism for placing the undefeated Shockers in the toughest bracket of them all with the likes of #2 Michigan, #3 Duke, #4 Louisville and #8 Kentucky.
Kentucky will face their toughest test of the season in the Sweet 16. They will face in-state rival and defending NCAA champions the #4 Louisville Cardinals in Indianapolis on Friday. Kentucky beat Louisville 73-66 in December and this game will be special with a trip to the Elite 8 on the line.
-Patrick Hazel (@pattywack25)