I'm sure Bobbyjack will have a more in depth preview, but on the eve of arguably the biggest game at Coleman Coliseum in the last 3 or 4 years, I thought I would offer my opinion on how we should go about slaying the giants. Kentucky may be one of the best teams of all time, but it's very difficult to go undefeated in college basketball, particularly when you are facing your opponents best shot every night. They've already been taken to overtime twice. I have little doubt we will give the Cats our best shot. My opinion is that UK will lose at least one road game in the SEC. So, why not us?
1. Lots of zone defense. Kentucky has a huge advantage over us in the paint. They are long, big, and skilled. We need to force them to take jump shots, and hope they have an off night on the road. We need to get back in transition to limit their fast break opportunities. I would not press them, our press has been ineffective and they are too quick and athletic. Maybe throw in some half-court zone traps occasionally just to give them another look and keep them off balance.
2. Rebounding. Kentucky is very good on the boards. We haven't been. Combine this with the above mentioned necessity of playing zone, and we could have a recipe for disaster. We MUST block out and hold them to one jump shot, and limit their second chance opportunities. In other words, more of what we saw in Knoxville, less of what we saw in Columbia, please.
3. Up tempo pace on offence- This may seem counter-intuitive. Generally, when you are out-manned (and make no mistake, every team that plays Kentucky will be out-manned, to varying degrees) it's better to slow the game down, with the theory being you have a better chance of winning with fewer possessions for each team. However, UK is an extraordinarily talented defensive team. The later we get in the shot clock, the more likely we are to turn it over. I would like for us to try to push the ball and get up a shot before they can get their defense set.
4. Three point shooting. We've been shooting a lot of 3s lately. We have not been making them. We need to keep shooting them, and hope that trend changes tomorrow. It's very difficult to attack the rim or post up their bigs. We must make the 3s.
So basically, push the ball up the floor, jack up the first decent open shot we get, many of which will be from beyond the perimeter, and hope we get hot, while retreating to a zone on defense, forcing UK to settle for one jump shot, and somehow keep them off the boards.
UK always travels well, and with them being #1 and undefeated, playing on a Saturday with a start time that is very conducive for them making a weekend trip, I expect there will be A LOT of blue in the stands. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, sometimes a vocal visiting contingent can motivate a normally docile home crowd. We need to drown them out, and provide a great atmosphere that our guys can feed off of. We can do this while still be courteous to our guests. I hope everyone that goes to the game will be welcoming and respectful to the Kentucky fans. I'm sure their fan base has a few bad apples like everyone else, but in general they are a first class bunch, knowledgeable of the game and passionate about their team. Rupp Arena is by far my favorite venue to visit in the SEC, and we've never had a bad experience in my half a dozen or so trips there. I'm very much looking forward to going back in two weeks.
Let's do this. Roll Tide.