Let’s be honest here, this won’t be a game. But there are plenty of things to work on against the Samford Bulldogs. Teague must continue to show signs of turning a corner. Lamb needs to keep making shots and Miller needs to start making his. Jones is on the mend, both mentally and physically. Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist, well, just needs to keep doing what they’re doing.
PG: Marquis Teague vs. Devin McNeil
Marquis Teague is quickly evolving into an elite point guard, and in these last few tune-up games before the meat of the schedule, he needs to continue to showcase his pure talent in distributing to his teammates. Look for Teague to be involved early and often against a very weak Samford team; he’ll take advantage of the size mismatches. The only thing Teague still shows a big weakness in is finishing at the rim, he can get some good practice today.
Devin McNeil’s minutes have been decreasing as the Bulldogs season has progressed, and the team has won a couple of games, basically without him. It’s anybody’s guess whether he’ll see significant minutes today against the Cats. McNeil is undersized and will probably struggle against the length and full-court press, I would like to see Teague get even more aggressive on defense against him. When the Cardinals come to town on New Year’s Eve, Teague will need to apply a lot of pressure to Peyton Siva – the time to learn is now.
SG: Doron Lamb vs. Will Cook
Doron Lamb has hit 10 of 18 three-point shots in his last four games, and fired up nine against Chattanooga. Look for a similar clip against another Southern Conference opponent. With these cupcake tune-ups before the Louisville game it’s hard to not look forward, and it’s obvious Lamb will need to be hitting from outside to beat the Cardinals. We all know how ungodly opposing teams seem to shoot against the Cats, and with Kyle Kuric’s ability to get hot, he’ll probably make like 36 threes. So Lamb will need to make at least that many. Practice makes perfect. Fire away, Doron!
Will Cook is a similar anomaly to his point guard, he’s shooting less and the team is winning more. Of course, the competition – even for Samford – has been weaker, but Cook is still averaging two three-pointers per game. Nothing to really worry about here; the Sophomore guard is evenly matched in terms of size but the skill gap, as you might guess, is drastic.
SF: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist vs. Jeffrey Merritt
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been a man among boys on the court, literally being a one-man army. Scoring, rebounding, passing, and coming up with loose balls. He’s a guy who can do it all and will continue to do it against this Samford team. I would like to see a little more midrange work for Kidd-Gilchrist today because we know he can score in the paint, and we’ve even seen his ability to knock down from three. Time to work on scoring from anywhere. Kidd-Gilchrist is perhaps the biggest mismatch the Cardinals will face on December 31, and could be the biggest reason for a Cats victory.
No offense to Mr. Merritt, but there’s nothing particularly great about his game. He doesn’t score very much and misses a lot of shots for a “bigger” man, he doesn’t rebound well, and seems very hesitant to shoot from outside. He’s a guard listed at 6-6, so he might just be one of those awkward players who was always picked last on the playground. I’m sorry Jeffrey, but the truth hurts.
PF: Darius Miller vs. Tyler Hood
Terrence Jones is out with a bummed pinky finger, so Miller looks to get the start at four. Miller said he is aware of a slump he’s going through, hitting only three of his last 17 three-point attempts. As is the theme throughout this preview, now is the time to iron out the kinks. I was all for the 33 shot attempts from behind the arc against Chattanooga, so let’s see some more of that tonight. Look for Darius to get involved early with his signature floater in the paint to get comfortable. I don’t have any doubt Miller will find the groove sooner than later.
The regular starter John Peterson is out with an injury, so filling in will likely be 6-6 Freshman Tyler Hood. He’s scored in double figures each of the last four games for the Bulldogs, so his guards are feeding him the ball. Darius Miller isn’t exactly the prototypical defensive juggernaut, so this is really the only “weakness” – if you can call it that – the Wildcats have against Samford. But don’t be alarmed. It’s still Samford.
C: Anthony Davis vs. Drew Windler
Believe it or not, Anthony Davis is actually bigger, as in weight, than an opposing center. Actually, you can probably believe that because this is Samford. But still, Davis will have the upper hand in literally every facet of the game today; he’ll have a field day. We’ll probably see the “triple-double watch” out soon. Blocks on blocks on blocks.
I’m not sure if you’re counting, but – at the risk of sounding racist – this is Samford’s third white boy starter. Nothing against the great Kyle Wiltjer or Jarrod Polson, but these guys just don’t seem up to snuff to White Boy Academy status. Drew Windler is a Senior and might have some “veteran moves,” but Davis will completely own him.