By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer
In describing an eerily similar situation Yankees Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra once said, “Its like deja-vu all over again.”
That’s kind of what it feels like with the current UK Basketball Team compared to the 2014 UK National Championship Runners-up. For those that remember the 2013-2014 UK team that finished second to the National Champion Connecticut Huskies there are a lot of similarities.
Starting with the types of players on each team. First of all, both teams have long and lean 6-6 point guards that can take it to the basket and score at the rim or dish it off to a teammate for an assist. Andrew Harrison and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Check.
A wing player that gets hot during tournament time from the 3-point line. Aaron Harrison and Wenyen Gabriel. Check.
Inside guys that can score in the paint off the “dribble drive” or on put back dunks from offensive rebounds. Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee and Sacha Killeya-Jones and Nick Richards. Check.
A physically imposing player that can muscle the ball into the basket in the paint. Julius Randle and PJ Washington. Check.
A smooth forward that can shoot the 3and has a good mid-range game. James Young and Kevin Knox. Check.
Not an overall great 3-point shooting team but made shots when it counted. Three-point percentage for 2014 team was 33 percent and 36 percent for the 2018 team. Check.
Key inside player injured during the stretch run that had provided good rebounding and inside shot blocking capability. Willie Cauley-Stein and Jarred Vanderbilt. Check.
Both teams also have key players from Dallas – Julius Randle and PJ Washington – and New York City – Dakari Johnson and Hamidou Diallo. Check.
Finally both teams have key players with hyphenated last names – Willie Cauley-Stein and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Sacha Killeya-Jones. Check.
Sorry but it’s difficult to resist including more. Here goes. Both teams also had big losing streaks near the end of the season – the 2014 team lost 3 of 4 and the 2018 team lost 4 in a row – and both teams lost to Florida on the road the last game of the season by double-digits.
They also both will have played Kansas State in the NCAA Tournament. Two more similarities – they both had a strength of schedule that was 4th toughest in the country out of 351 teams and they both finished with long winning streaks. The 2014 team was 8-1 over their last nine games and the 2018 team is 9-1 over its last ten games prior to the Sweet 16. Those aren’t all the similarities but enough so that you get the picture.
There are enough similarities between the teams that it is kind of eerie. They both started the season highly ranked – the 2014 team at No.1 and the 2018 team at No.5 – they both had double digit losses and finished the regular season unranked in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll.
Here’s hoping that one more similarity occurs. The 2014 team made it all the way to the National Championship game. It would be great if one more similarity occurred and the 2018 team made it to the title game also. From there anything could happen.