NCAA tourney: Kentucky is the only pick

SHARE NCAA tourney: Kentucky is the only pick
SHARE NCAA tourney: Kentucky is the only pick

Look, pal, I don’t want to pick Kentucky to win the title any more than you want me to pick Kentucky to win the title.

But what’re you gonna do?

Some Goliaths are just too big to fail. Unfortunately for Duke and all those who root for Chicago’s young stars as they spread out into the hoops galaxy, Whitney Young icon Jahlil Okafor may not be one of those Goliaths. I’ve got the Blue Devils reaching the title game — giving us a long-imagined “what if?” matchup between the 6-11 Okafor and Kentucky’s skyline of bigs — but falling to the Wildcats in an instant classic.

NCAA Tournament Bracket

Karl-Anthony Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein and Dakari Johnson all are taller than Okafor on a UK roster that gives most NBA teams inseam envy. But don’t forget 5-9 Tyler Ulis from Marian Catholic, a little giant whose pressure defense, slick playmaking and Iversonesque quickness help make the 34-0 Wildcats so ferocious.

This isn’t all about size. It’s also about strength, speed and future earning power. It’s about all the things Kentucky, one of the most hyped teams in history, has more of than anybody else.

It’s about Kentucky vs. the field and a history-defying team racing toward an almost unimaginable record of 40-0, led by an ingenius coach, John Calipari, whom many still see as something of a villain.

All of which is not to say the tournament is Kentucky’s and Kentucky’s alone. There will be an opponent lurking in every later round that is capable of beating the Wildcats — Notre Dame in the Elite 8, anyone? — and if this is a “chalk” year, or close to it, the games will be thrilling.

In 2014, No. 1 seed Florida was joined at the Final Four by a No. 2, Wisconsin; a No. 7, eventual champ Connecticut; and a No. 8, Kentucky. I’ve got a whole different ballgame in my 2015 bracket — three No. 1s and a No. 2. And I’d argue that Duke, Wisconsin and Virginia are three of the best four teams in the country.

But Kentucky is on a different level and is the superstar of this show. Nobody’s saying you have to like it, but you’re going to have to deal.

Email: sgreenberg@suntimes.com

Twitter: @slgreenberg

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