Over at the Worldwide Leader, blog crush Jay Bilas has compiled a mighty fine preview of the Kentucky/Indiana game. First, he whets our whitsles with an overview of the Cats, which includes several warm fuzzy superlatives:
Kentucky overview: Kentucky is the most talented and gifted team in the country. The Wildcats are not super deep with NBA players but have plenty of guys who can play. Terrence Jones, Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague will all play at the next level sooner rather than later, and I would not be surprised to see Doron Lamb and Kyle Wiltjer join them in the NBA. Kentucky may be very young in spots but the Cats defend, play hard and are not afraid.
The Wildcats generate offense from their defense, and they excel at getting into the lane off the dribble. We spend a lot of time talking about Kentucky’s scoring ability and talent level, but what makes John Calipari’s teams win is, and always has been, defense. The Cats pressure the ball, bring the heat 94 feet at times and look not just to position themselves properly, but also to heat up the ball. To win, Kentucky will have to turn Indiana over and also force quick, contested shots.
While he lists Terrence Jones as Kentucky’s “Go-To Guy” and Doron Lamb the team’s “indispensable player,” Bilas says freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is the Cats’ “X-Factor”:
Kentucky X factor: Kidd-Gilchrist
The freshman is an aggressive force on both ends of the floor and plays with great passion. Kidd-Gilchrist can drive the ball, get into the lane and get to the free throw line. He also uses his energy and high motor to get steals on the other end. He can turn it over and commit fouls, but he can also be the most effective player on the floor. Kidd-Gilchrist is a winner and plays his best in big games. This is a big game.
Like any underdog, for Indiana to pull off the upset, they will have to minimize turnovers and execute their offense flawlessly. Fortunately for us, that will be a tall task, right Jay?
Key stat: Indiana turnovers
The Hoosiers work to get good shots and when they do, they are one of the most efficient offensive teams in the country. Against Kentucky’s pressure, it will be difficult for Indiana to run offense the way it wants. It is vital for Indiana to handle and pass the ball without coughing it up. The Hoosiers’ offense has to help the defense. Turnovers mean easy shots and opportunistic 3s for Kentucky. It is not just a question of how many turnovers, but what kind. Live ball turnovers will become easy baskets for the Wildcats.
No preview is complete without a prediction. Jay continues his reign as the smartest and sanest analyst in the game with this pick:
Who wins: While I believe Indiana will play its best game of the young season, Kentucky is more talented and powerful. Kentucky will pull out a win on the road.