Scott Padgett played for Kentucky in the mid-1990s, which means he played for some of the best teams in college basketball history. He payed with Ron Mercer, Derek Anderson, Nazr Mohammed and Jamaal Magloire, among others, and helped Kentucky to a national runner-up finish in 1997 and a national championship in 1998.
So he knows a thing or two about special teams and special runs – and this year’s Kentucky team, he said, is special.
“It’s a really special run, and it’s a special team,” Padgett said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I think what Coach Calipari has got these kids to buy into, that the winning will lead to basically all of them succeeding later on and that it’s not about who gets the most points and who’s the star – you’ll all be stars by winning – what he’s done to get all these McDonald’s All-Americans to buy into that is a pretty special thing.”
No. 1 Kentucky (38-0) plays No. 1 Wisconsin (35-3) in the Final Four on Saturday at 8:49 p.m. ET. With just two more wins, the Wildcats can become the first team since Bob Knight’s 1975-76 Indiana Hoosiers to go undefeated and win a national championship. If victorious against Wisconsin, Kentucky would play the winner of Duke (33-4) versus Michigan State (27-11) in the title game Monday.
Kentucky boasts the biggest lineup in America and has depth and balance at every position. Six Wildcats – Aaron Harrison, Devin Booker, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Harrison, Willie Cauley-Stein and Trey Lyles – are averaging between 8.7 and 11.0 points per game.
“It’s one of those things – every guy on this team was the man for their team when they got to Kentucky,” said Padgett, now the head coach at Samford. “You can even go down the line toward the 11th and 12th man. Derek Willis was the man on his team. He’s a young man from Kentucky that hardly ever gets in. And Dominique Hawkins was Mr. Basketball in the state of Kentucky – and those guys really don’t even see the court. The other guys in front of them were McDonald’s All Americans and were super, super stars. To get them to buy into (a) team-first (mentality) – it’s something that really doesn’t happen a lot in today’s society.”
Kentucky is a 4.5-point favorite against Wisconsin, which has won 20 of its last 21 games. The Badgers will be arguably the Wildcats’ toughest test of the season. Few teams, if any, have the size – and the skill to match it – that Wisconsin has.
Except, perhaps, for Kentucky.
“There’s no big weaknesses,” Padgett said of his alma mater. “They have, I guess, lesser strengths, but they don’t have any holes in their game. They got guys that can shoot the ball outside, they got guys that can penetrate and create, they got guys that can post up, they’ve got guys that can defend, they’ve got guys that can rebound – they don’t really have any weaknesses. Like I said, they have lesser strengths.”