See this is what we have been waiting for. While there are many advantages to being a UK fan and playing in the SEC, it is rare that Kentucky is involved in one of those “it” games in Rupp Arena. An out of conference schedule that has seen many of its rivals drop (IU, UL and for a short period, UNC) combined with an SEC that has rarely produced another true national power, has led to very few home games that made you shiver with excitement.. I was discussing with a friend recently and we decided that the biggest games we could remember recently were the 94 Arkansas game, the Steve Francis Maryland game, the first Rick Pitino game with UL and the 03 Gators game. But in many ways this one may be bigger. Undefeated in the conference, consensus #1 and the DEFENDING national champion in Rupp….complete with Gameday, Dicky V, Ashley Judd, a 9 PM start that lets the kids get in the “spirit”…..now that is something to look forward to.
But what about the actual game. Specifically, do the Cats have a legitimate shot? I think they do…..maybe. The Gators really are a loaded team and while they werent the best in the country last year, they certainly are this year. They have no weaknesses….a heady point guard who can distribute and shoot, a three point dagger, a combo 3 that can take people off the dribble and shoot with silky accuracy, a dominating power post presence and a silky smooth, intelligent big guy who is athletic and unbelievably long. That is quite a team, and UK really doesnt have the necessary components to match up.
However, this UK team is better suited to give a shot than last year’s team. Morris and Horford are a wash in my view, and Randolph (who better be focused) may have the better of the matchup. The guards matchup is tough. I would like to see Bradley (the team’s best defender) checking Green (the heart of the Gators). Rondo, for all the praise for defensive work, was simply not a great on-the-ball defender and was continually abused by Taurean last year. Ramel will rise to the challenge and I think he can make that battle a wash. I would like to see Joe C or Meeks on Humphrey, with the instructions to not play off him at all. Last year, Ryan killed Patrick Sparks by sneaking away and that cant happen this year. Corey Brewer is tough, and last year Joe C was simply abused by him on play after play. I worry about that this year too, but Joe is in better shape now and may be more up to the challenge. I hope Tubby considers letting Ramel on Taurean and moving Jasper here against Brewer. His size provides the best defense against Corey, and may end up being the best matchup if Joe hasnt stepped up his defensive game.
But ultimately, the Cats biggest weakness will be guarding Joakim Noah. Simply put, the Cats have no answer. Bobby Perry is too short, Sheray Thomas is too slow, Perry Stevenson is too raw and young and Woo is too Woo. Noah provides matchup problems for all teams, but most importantly for UK, as his athleticism is simply more than this team can counter….at least as long as Perry Stevenson is only a Freshman.
But the Cats do have some things going for them as well.. When they bring Meeks, Crawford and Bradley in at the same time, they have three legitimate penetrating scoring threats and could expose some of Humphrey’s defensive liabilities in that area. Florida is not deep and getting to their bench could be beneficial. Plus, and most importantly, Rupp is going to be rocking and if the Cats can take advantage early, that wave can have a big impact.
The key for the Cats is to stay in the game early. They simply cant get in a track meet with Florida and that means they cant fall behind in the early stages. UK would love to have a win here…..it would be great for the program, huge for NCAA seeding and catapult the Cats back on the national stage. But most importantly they need a good performance. Win or lose, the Cats need to look like they belong…..do that, and it can be a success.
We will be in the Hyatt all day, doing our 1570 AM and 1600 AM show from 10 AM-12 noon, our podcast from 7-9 pm. Plus we plan on hanging and spending the afternoon in the bar area. Come by….Ravi Moss will be there and we will be unveiling the GREAT signs that Signs Now in Lexington did for us. It will be fun tomorrow….hope you will be there!