(This preview brought to you by “Guy on a Buffalo.”)
After a week of studying for finals, Kentucky will finally take the court this Saturday in a match-up with Lipscomb University. The Bisons (yes, the “Bisons”), who are making the short trek from Nashville, take on a Kentucky team that is looking for its third straight win after falling out of the AP top-25 for the first time under John Calipari. While the ranking, or lack there of, is unfamiliar territory for the ‘Cats, preparation for an opponent remains the same. On the surface, Lipscomb doesn’t appear to be the type of team that can present many challenges to a team as talented as Kentucky. After all, they’re 4-4 and their best victory is a 4 point road win over Gardner-Webb (rated 145th in Kenpom). Regardless, the Bisons do have several players capable of going off for a big night in Rupp Arena.
The first thing to note about the Bisons are their two leading scorers, Malcolm and Marcus Smith. The identical twins are averaging 13 and 12 points per game respectively this season. Even more interesting, their complete stat lines are near identical; both average around 4.5 rebounds, 0.5 steals, 0.2 blocks, and 2.5 turnovers per game. While those two receive a vast majority of the team’s total possessions, Deonte Alexander is another name to watch in this Saturday’s game. Alexander, a 6’1” Senior, is Lipscomb’s best perimeter marksman, shooting a very respectable 39% from beyond the arc (16-41). He only gets around 17% of his team’s possessions when on the floor (D-1 average is 20%), but given the opportunity, he could certainly make Kentucky pay for a lazy defensive effort. While these players have talent, the remaining cast isn’t especially efficient offensively, scoring just 96.2 points per 100 possessions as a team (221st nationally). Knowing this, Kentucky should perform moderately well on the defensive end come Saturday.
The defense for Lipscomb isn’t much better than their offense, but it does contain individuals that can frustrate a Freshmen dominated squad. One that can frustrate is no other than previously mentioned sharpshooter, Deonte Alexander. So far on the young season he is averaging 2.1 steals per game. In terms of advanced numbers, he steals the ball on 4% of opponent possessions which places him 146th nationally. In addition to Alexander’s quick hands, Lipscomb also has a respectable three point defense. On the season they’re only allowing opponents to shoot 31.4% from the perimeter which places them 116th nationally. However these are the only two areas in which they perform well. In terms of the defensive “Four Factors” they rank 205th in effective field goal defense (49.3%), 321st in turnover percentage (16.6%), 187th in defensive rebounding percentage (32.5%), and 274th in free throw rate (43.2%). Or to put as simply; they can’t stop opponents from shooting, rebounding, or getting to the free throw line at a high rate.
It should be noted that Lipscomb has played a Kenpom top-30 team on three occasions this year. They’ve lost all three of those games by a combined score of 280-171. While the outcome of Saturday’s game is virtually predetermined, it will not be without exciting moments as Lipscomb is one of the nation’s most uptempo teams. In fact, they average 73 possessions per game which is way above the national average of 67, so this game has the potential for spectacular fast-break offense. Kenpom.com’s predictor sees the ‘Cats as 26 point favorites and gives 98% chance of victory. Given that Lipscomb struggles on both sides of the ball and that they’ve been blown out by all decent competition, there’s no reason to think Kentucky won’t do the same.