Ok, I’ll go ahead and break the ice. The “I hate Tennessee” posts are over. Believe it or not, there aren’t any writers left. But, the game remains….
When UK goes strolling into Thompson-Boling Arena tonight, they’ll do it as a much different team than the one that left Bruce Pearl with doodoo streaks in his undies on last season’s trip to Knoxville. While the obvious change is the return of a healthy Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks, the Cats are also a much more confident team and, arguably, playing at a higher level. But, in order for the Cats to be competitive with the pre-season pick to win the SEC, they have to remain patiently efficient on offense like they did when they nearly knocked off the Vols at T-BA (sweet abbreviation, huh?) in March of ’08. If they fall into the run n’ gun trap that made them stumble a bit against UNC and Louisville, they’ll be in trouble.
Tennessee is going to dangle the bait in front of Kentucky from the get-go. The Vols will come out aggressive on defense with traps and presses and anything else they can do to speed up the tempo. They’ll go down and take bad shots or drive wildly into the lane, but that all fits into what they want to do. They’ll play crazy as long as you will too. But, Kentucky can’t fall into the trap and start rushing on offense. In both the Patterson-less 63-60 loss and the earlier 72-66 victory, the Cats frustrated the Vols by refusing to ever adhere to their helter-skelter style. They were able to work the shot clock until they got a high percentage shot and, by doing so, threw Tennessee out of rhythm (holla at my man, Wayne Chism) a bit and kept them from setting up in a press. Tonight, they’ll have to do much of the same.
Don’t get me wrong, fast break points are great. In fact, they’re one of the most purely positive things in all of basketball – as long as they’re really fast break points. This year’s Kentucky team has done fairly well in getting quick points on the break, but a few guys have mistaken quick shots for good shots and that is something that could be exposed by the Vols tonight. Basically, Kentucky needs a steady hand to keep the team under control. Someone to set up the offense and break the press without getting flustered. A player who can differentiate between quality and chaos. They need a…..
Could it be?