Thursday, 8 January 2015

How to beat Kentucky Wildcats?

John Calipari is at it again. He has assembled another great group of talented young men in Lexington who although merely stopping by en route to the NBA, yet this group in his much discussed platoon system have the potential to go 40-0 in the season, a feat never accomplished in NCAA history.

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However, in their first game of conference play in the SEC at home in the Rupp Arena against Ole Miss, the Wildcats got a scare only overcoming them 89-86 in the dying moments when Ole Miss' best player Stefan Moody who had 25 points succumb to cramp and fatigue.

In part Moody fell victim to the style of game that nearly garnered the upset but will actually serve as a blueprint for the rest of the SEC to get that victory that will stutter history and possibly ensure a tournament appearance with such a big win on any resume.

The Rebels played hard in terms of tempo and attacking the big defenders of Kentucky. By having small guards and players who short in stature like Jarvis Summers but big in game meant that big forwards like Aaron Harrison (6' 8") found it difficult to defend against quickness.  Kentucky conceded the most points in one game and that was also helped by Ole Miss scoring 9 3-pointers, and yet even those 27 points were not enough.

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So which teams in the SEC can score quick, score a lot and convert 3-pointers as well as defend against those bigs in the paint and on the perimeter.  The Wildcats are not exceptional from the field in terms of FG percentage nor from behind the arc.  They are not as outstanding nor formidable as the Kentucky aide led by Anthony Davis that won the National Championship and perhaps this close victory at home will galvanise the team and realise how big that bullseye is on their chest. As the big dog in the SEC, they can expect to get everyone's best shot, so long as it's taken quickly and from downtown.

One team who may have the answer could be the Arkansas Razorbacks, a team currently 12-2 (both losses came on the road at Iowa State and Clemson - two teams from stronger conferences) and yet they have the highest scoring backcourt in forward Bobby Portis and guard Michael Qualls.

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Sophomore Portis shows great touch for a 6' 11" guy in the paint off of both hands averaging 17.1 ppg and 7.6 rebounds whilst Junior Qualls offers the dynamism on offence and the hounding on defence around the perimeter averaging 15.5 ppg and 5.3 rpg.

As a team they are ranked 8th in the nation in points per game (84.1) and 3rd in assists (18.4) have a high free throw percentage and are decent from distance. Kentucky average 76.3 points per game but are big in the rebound statistics 41.4 in comparison to Arkansas' 38.1, that is in part due to the length of the team.  The only downside is they have to go to Kentucky on 28th February and also on the road to these Ole Miss Rebels on Valentines Day.

The SEC may have a king of the castle but there are sure going to be some more bumpy roads for Kentucky along the way to their supposed place in the Final Four with tricky road trips to Alabama, Florida and LSU to contend with.  If an athletic opponent can surprise and attack an up tempo game against these Wildcats then it might not be Kentucky purring during conference play.

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