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5 things Kentucky must do to beat Kansas and stay in the hunt for a 1-seed


Both Kentucky and Kansas lost last night, making Saturday’s showdown in Rupp even more important, specifically when it comes to NCAA Tournament seeding. The best way for Kentucky to stay in the conversation for a one-seed is to beat Kansas, which could use a resume boost itself after a 16-point drubbing at West Virginia. Beat Kansas and Kentucky’s two-point loss at Tennessee is just a blip, an inevitable stumble on the road in the SEC; lose to Kansas and you can’t afford another off night, which is asking a whole lot from a team that, as we saw last night, hasn’t grown up yet.

The game’s not until Saturday, but I’m already fixated on it, if only because I’m desperate to turn the page from last night. After an early look at both squads, here are the five things Kentucky must do to beat Kansas and potentially get a one-seed.


1. Feed Bam to capitalize on Kansas’ vulnerability in the paint

As Kyle Tucker pointed out this morning, Bam Adebayo is shooting 82% over the last five games, but is only averaging five shots. WTF. Bam had 21 points last night off 7-8, but he could have had 30+ had the guards simply fed him the ball more often. This has been a talking point for weeks, but we’re getting to the point that if someone doesn’t get the ball to Bam on a possession, they need to sit. Calipari pretty much did that for most of the second half and Bam got 15 of his 21 points as a result. This is probably the most important key to the game because the paint is where Kansas is the most vulnerable. Last night, West Virginia outscored Kansas 34-20 in the paint and outrebounded them 39-32. The Jayhawks are giving up 34 points a game in the paint, whereas Kentucky’s scoring 44. Feed Bam, beat Kansas.

2. Find some kind of answer for Josh Jackson

Unfortunately, while Bam can punish Kansas inside due to matchup problems, Josh Jackson can do just as much harm to Kentucky on the wing. While Wenyen Gabriel and Derek Willis have improved at the four spot (although they were only 2-11 last night), relying on them for defense is shaky at best, and when it comes to Jackson, one of the most explosive scorers in the country, it’s downright terrifying. It will be interesting to see what Kentucky does with Jackson; do you rotate players on him, such as Briscoe, or just let him shoot from the outside and hope he misses more than he makes? I’m glad I don’t have to make that decision.


3. Some kind of defense — any kind of defense! — from Fox and Monk

Remember at the beginning of the season when everyone thought De’Aaron Fox’s biggest impact would be on defense? Well, it’s been three months and we’re still waiting. Known for his defensive prowess in high school, Fox has made his mark in transition so far at Kentucky, blowing by teams on his way to the basket for easy buckets. Unfortunately, he’s not using that same speed to keep up on defense, which is truly perplexing; the same goes for Monk, who seems to only cares about defense because it means he gets the ball back to score again. These two are fast, phenomenal athletes, but on Saturday, they’ll face a backcourt duo that’s possibly even better than they are in Frank Mason III and Devonte’ Graham. For Kentucky to win, they must get some kind of production from Fox and Monk on the defensive end.

Photo by UK Athletics

Photo by UK Athletics

4. Recapture transition mojo

Kentucky trails only West Virginia among major conferences when it comes to points per game off turnovers (21.4), but in recent games, that’s dipped over the last four games to a 16.5 average. Maybe it’s due to all of the fouls, but Kentucky hasn’t been the same high-flying, fun bunch of Cats the past few weeks; Tennessee did a particularly good job of limiting Kentucky in transition, leaving the team looking lost in the half court offense.

On the flip side, Kentucky’s also turning the ball over more often, an average of 15 times in the last four games, a noticeable uptick from their season average of 11.5. Against a team that is equally as dangerous in the backcourt, not only can Kentucky not afford mistakes, they must capitalize on every one Kansas makes. We know they can do it. So let’s do it.


5. Turn Up, Rupp

This one’s on you, fans. Last year, Kentucky lost to Kansas due in part to what some called the most impressive college basketball environment they’ve been a part of. With a one-seed potentially on the line, Rupp must be rocking. The pieces are there to make it happen; “College Gameday” will be in town, the early evening tip time gives fans plenty of time to pregame and get rowdy, several former Cats could be in the audience along with a five-star recruit, and there’s a ton on the line. UK’s even pulling out all the stops to “Turn Up, Rupp” by bringing in a rep from the Guinness Book of World Records to attempt to set a new record for the loudest indoor crowd cheer. Rupp generally doesn’t have a reputation for that, but on special nights, it tends to rise to the occasion; for Kentucky’s postseason path to be as smooth as possible, it will have to.

Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

16 Comments for 5 things Kentucky must do to beat Kansas and stay in the hunt for a 1-seed

  1. Angelo
    8:52 pm January 25, 2017 Permalink

    Stop the Kansas dribble drive in the lane!!!

  2. Luether
    9:06 pm January 25, 2017 Permalink

    6. Find someone who can coach…

    • Condo1122
      9:16 pm January 25, 2017 Permalink

      Go away, worthless troll

    • Luether
      4:52 pm January 26, 2017 Permalink

      Some D-bag is impersonating me. I didn’t post this…

  3. runningunnin.454
    10:21 pm January 25, 2017 Permalink

    At 6’8″, Jackson might be a tall order for Briscoe…ha ha.
    Been a clamor in KSR comment section for a zone….our team is too young and inexperienced to play zone…and you would have to “chase” Jackson, or he would kill us from the 3 line.

    • donjohnson
      9:16 am January 26, 2017 Permalink

      Jackson is not a good 3 point shooter……at all actually. He is their worst 3 point shooter of anyone with more than 5 attempts. Good teams don’t play zone anyway

    • runningunnin.454
      10:09 am January 26, 2017 Permalink

      Jackson was 3-3 from 3 line at W.Va…he’s becoming more dangerous from deep; also can’t let Frank Mason have good 3 looks.
      I agree about the zone….have no use for a zone in half court; but you have to zone inbounds plays; and if you’re going to press, it has to be zone.

  4. Gowcats
    10:32 pm January 25, 2017 Permalink

    Are SEC officials working the game, or is Shows part of the crew? Count on either to make bad calls against us in our house.

  5. StuckinLville
    12:55 am January 26, 2017 Permalink

    Bam needs to start demanding the ball and chewing out his teammates if they dont. I know he is a super nice guy, but like Payne said, he needs to find his mean streak on the court.

  6. letsroll76
    4:21 am January 26, 2017 Permalink

    How about some senior leadership and Bam needs to tell the guards if they don’t feed him the ball he going to kick their ass after the game ,losing to Louisville and Tennessee shows there is no leadership on this team,please Cal if this team will not listen ,thats what the bench is for.

    • WatchutalkinboutWillis
      8:27 am January 26, 2017 Permalink

      I agree. I would rather lose because Hawkins, Mulder(I know he is sick), and Tai were in playing their hearts out then to lose because Fox, Briscoe, and Monk were in trying to play one on one. But mostly, I would rather win! haha

    • donjohnson
      9:20 am January 26, 2017 Permalink

      We don’t have an effort problem. On D they just don’t go to the right places. Gabriel ball watches the whole game. This is why he has great help d from time to time but gets backdoored multiple times every game. Bam tries to block everything even when someone else is in good position on defense……leading to offensive rebounds. Willis just socks at D period. And Fox and monk allow to many straight line drives installed of funneling. It’s not an effort problem though

    • WatchutalkinboutWillis
      9:39 am January 26, 2017 Permalink

      I didn’t mean to imply it was an effort issue, or that Dom, Mulder or Tai would put forth more effort (although they might). What I’m saying is that I would rather lose because less talented players were doing exactly what they were coached to do rather than lose due to more talented players NOT doing what they are coached to do.

    • UK Big Board Update
      12:17 pm January 26, 2017 Permalink

      ^^ So, the BCG years….

  7. Luether
    4:53 pm January 26, 2017 Permalink

    #6. Bam needs to stay out of foul trouble…