ESPN is chock full of goodies about the Cats with tonight’s showdown in the Garden looming ever closer. TWWL’s Fran Fraschilla took the time to break down the game, so here’s some highlights from his analysis. I’d give you the whole thing, but it’s an insider article, so you’ll have to have the special glasses or whatever to read the rest, which is here.
Overview: Let’s face it — you won’t see John Calipari and Jim Calhoun teaming up in the three-legged race at the next Calhoun family picnic. So part of the intrigue of this game, frankly, will be the giant test of wills on each sideline. Both coaches thrive on big games in the spotlight and neither coach shies away from early-season games of this magnitude.
Both Kentucky and Connecticut are a long way from the teams they will be in March. So this game is a good barometer because weaknesses will be probed on both sides. This type of game often comes down to mental toughness and understanding that “playing hard” is just as much a skill as shooting or passing.
Kentucky has a little more depth at this point in the season and a terrific inside scorer in Patterson, an All-American candidate if there ever was one. While he hasn’t been overlooked with the arrival of UK’s vaunted freshmen class, he’s certainly handled sharing the spotlight with relative ease. He must be dealt with inside.
The Huskies’ Stanley Robinson isn’t quite the go-to scorer that Patterson is, but he proved last March that he can handle the role of No.1 scoring option, especially when Dyson went down with a knee injury. With Dyson returning to form as well, this UConn team is still plenty dangerous.
Ultimately, though, I’ll go with the Wildcats in an ugly, grind-it-out game with Wall making just a couple of more spectacular plays than Walker, his Connecticut counterpart.
He also highlights the John Wall-Kemba Walker head-to-head, which should be one of this season’s more fun matchups in which Wall embarrasses someone people thought might hang with him. DeMarcus Cousins is an X-factor and offensive rebounding will be a key, according to the Fran.
Another stat to watch tonight, and another reason to believe that this game will be physical and a little ugly, is blocked shots. UConn has led the nation in blocks for the last eight seasons, and sits on top of the list for this year, as well, with an average of 10/game. The Cats, however, are tied (with Jerry Tipton’s preseason SEC champion Mississippi State) for third nationally, averaging 8.3/game and I don’t think I’m crazy to say that this team could be capable of unseating the Huskies as tops in the country. Almost every player we put on the floor, even at guard, is capable of blocking a shot and considering the parade of chumps we’ll see before playing another legitimately good team, it’s well within the realm of possibility and something to watch for tonight.
Either way, this game will be a battle. We’re walking into UConn’s territory, off a tough game, and they just lost to Duke. This Duke. They play plenty of big games in the Garden and will not be intimidated by the mystique of Kentucky. Too bad none of that crap matters. We have John Wall.