Ready or not, this team is more like the Arkansas we remember in Nolan Richardson’s days. They’re not quite to the same level yet, but the mentality is there: run, run, run for forty minutes. After all, the other team can’t make shots if they’re passed out.
It’s no surprise then, that the Razorbacks are 38th in the nation in total points per game (74.2), while holding only the 133rd spot for field goal percentage (44%). Dudes put up a lot of shots, led by none other than B.J. Young, who averages almost two more shots a game than Archie Goodwin (12.6 to 10.8). Young is a very good scorer, but needs that high volume to be able to put up the 15+ points per game he’s used to.
Young, the 6’3″ sophomore, has come up big in wins against the SEC’s best, scoring 18 against Mizzou on over 50% shooting, and hitting big free throws against Florida in their romp last month. But for all his potential, you can never know what to expect from the guy until after you’ve watched the game.
See, Young has been in a Terrence-Jones-at-Indiana type funk over the last several games, making only 2 of his 19 attempts. Doesn’t matter where you play, that’s stupendously awful. This can either bode very well, or very poorly, for the Cats. Either he continues his shooting struggles and fails to crack double digit points, or he busts out of his melodrama in a big way and torches the Cats en route to an energizing home win. How can Kentucky make sure it’s the former, instead of the latter?
For starters, force him to shoot outside. His respectable 41% from three last season has shriveled into a meager 22% this year. In a couple of games, that would be considered a fluke. In almost an entire season, that’s regression. Keep him outside the paint, and force him into long jumpers, and you should have a much easier time.
To do that, though, you have to focus on something much bigger than B.J. Young: the transition game. Last year’s Wildcats had a ton of fun in transition, with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist being possibly the most unstoppable force in the league while on a break. This year, though, the Cats don’t have that same spark on the offensive end. While we could play the transition game better than anyone in 2012 (see: Sweet Sixteen), this year we’ll probably have to force them to play our game. Which is to say, slow them down, make them play half-court basketball, and rebound their misses. The rebounding part of which shouldn’t be too hard, considering that the Hogs are 154th in the country in the rebounding column, and the Cats have gotten as many or more boards in the last three games as their opponents (including Missouri, currently 2nd in overall rebounding).
B.J. Young presents a unique challenge for the Cats, who will have to slow him, and his run-n-gun teammates down to prevent getting worn out before halftime. Kentucky will have to be smart on their possessions, use a little shot clock, and give themselves time to rest in order to be able to control Young and company on the other end.
Also, watch out for this: