By Alex Forkner
A’dia Mathies has her best season yet, complemented by the most talented counterparts the program has ever seen. All year long, UK’s post players control the inside with their size. Head coach Matthew Mitchell’s brand of suffocating defense makes this team the most difficult in the country to play against.
Consistent 3-point shooting makes the team equally hard to guard. The Cats continue to be unbeatable at home, and the team’s level of experience helps them excel on the road, allowing them to claim a second consecutive SEC regular-season title, while Mitchell coaches them through any potential stumbles on the way.
The Cats are rewarded with a No. 1 or No. 2 seed and cakewalk to the Elite Eight. A tough schedule has prepared them to take on traditional powers like UConn and Stanford. Mitchell’s squad grinds out a victory and appears in the first Final Four in program history.
Once in New Orleans, anything is possible, especially a rematch with No. 1 Baylor, the favorite to repeat as NCAA champs.
A blowout loss at Baylor dampens the enthusiasm surrounding the program. An early injury to A’dia Mathies deprives the team of its All-American leader for part of the season. When the talented guard returns, she never is quite the same. Others fail to fill the void, both in leadership and in scoring, and the Cats struggle through their non-conference schedule.
Increased expectations in conference play hinder the team’s performance, causing them to pick up several losses. The Cats fall behind conference foes Georgia and Tennessee in the standings, failing to defend last year’s SEC title. An early exit from the SEC Tournament prevents any momentum going into the NCAAs.
Mitchell’s team receives a middling seed in the six to nine range, forcing them to play more talented teams earlier in the tournament. UK manages to squeak by the opening game before being knocked off by a lower-seeded opponent.