That’s about all I can find in the RMU girl department. Take it or leave it.
Tonight, Kentucky begins their quest for a second straight national title when they take on Robert Morris University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Experts say this national title quest isn’t as prestigious or noteworthy as that other tournament which name currently escapes me, but it’s a national title quest nonetheless (If that’s not positive spin I don’t know what is). While last year’s journey began in Louisville against in-state rival Western Kentucky, this year’s festivities start with Northeastern Conference regular season champion, Robert Morris. Third year head coach Andrew Toole guided his squad to a 23-10 overall record this season and is looking to add another notch to his coaching belt with an upset win over Kentucky. Things haven’t gone according to plan for John Calipari and his Wildcats this season, after all, they’ll be playing in front of a sold out Sewall Center crowd of 3,056 people, not exactly a normal sized crowd for UK. But they’ll have to get over their disappointment quickly in order to avoid further embarrassment. The Colonial players aren’t the biggest or fastest in the nation, but they possess a certain set of skills which present problems for Kentucky.
The Colonial offense currently ranks 143rd nationally in adjusted offensive efficiency according to KenPom.com, so they’re not exactly the gold standard of scoring. However, RMU fills it up from the perimeter, something which has been an issue for Kentucky on defense all season long. As it stands, they’re ranked 26th overall in three-point shooting percentage at 38%. Making matters worse, 41% of their shot attempts come from the perimeter, which ranks 27th nationally. Such an efficient shooting percentage at an incredibly high volume comes behind the efforts of three players shooting over 42%; Karvel Anderson, Lucky Jones, and Coron Williams. While this trio and most everyone else on their roster can shoot, they have a severe problem with interior scoring. Their interior shooting percentage of 46.5% (216th nationally) is largely due to their very small roster which contains only two players over 6-foot-8. Given this, the game plan is simple, force their perimeter shooters into the lane and let them deal with Willie Cauley-Stein.
The Colonial defense is the epitome of average. Entering tonight, their adjusted defensive efficiency rating is 154th nationally according to Kenpom.com. While they don’t do much well, RMU is among the nation’s best at forcing turnovers, causing an opponent miscue on 24.6% of possessions (16th nationally). Much like their three point offense, the Colonials are led by three players in this department as well. Lucky Jones, Velton Jones, and Russell Johnson have guided the RMU defense to such a stout turnover rate, all forcing over 1.3 turnovers per contest. Of course, one of Kentucky’s Achilles heels all season long has been shaky ball handling by guards, so this is an area of concern for tonight. Robert Morris may be an elite team at bringing defensive pressure, but they have a severe inefficiency which can be easily exploited by Kentucky. Currently, Andrew Toole’s squad is allowing opponents to connect on 51% of interior shots, ranking 280th nationally. It doesn’t take an expert to figure out that the ball should be thrown down low early and often to Cauley-Stein and Poythress, allowing them to exploit a very short Colonial team.
When the name etched on your jersey says “Kentucky” in bold blue letters, you expect more than an NIT appearance, especially when experts proclaim there to be NBA level talent across the roster. While everyone in Lexington is surely disappointed, that better be quickly forgotten because RMU will be more than ready to pull a monster upset in front of their home crowd. While emotion will certainly favor the Colonials tonight, their lack of size could be devastating for them provided Kentucky gets the ball down low. If Calipari and his team manage to exploit their undersized defense and stop their perimeter shooters, it should be and easy victory. However, if Robert Morris is able to force turnovers while going off from the perimeter, it could be an incredibly long evening for our squad.