As a fan base, we’ve become very accustomed to show-stopper dunks in basically every game. Some have even changed the pace of a game and helped lead us to a win. Willie’s dunk against Florida changed the tides, as did the ones against LSU and Cincinnati. In tomorrow’s match up against West Virginia, we might be seeing a lot more dunks from Willie, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Trey Lyles.
In the past, Bob Huggins and WVU have run a 1-3-1 zone defense, which inevitably brought down John Wall’s team in the 2010 Elite Eight because they couldn’t hit outside shots. Now, the Mountaineers run a fast-paced press, much like Louisville and Arkansas try to do against their opponents. They enforce the defense as soon as the ball is in-bounded in order to force a turnover on their side of the court. In fact, West Virginia leads the nation in steals.
We saw how this worked against Louisville and Arkansas. The Cardinals lost 58-50 and the Razorbacks lost 84-67 and 78-63 in the SEC tournament championship game. They tried to force turnovers that usually ended in Kentucky scoring (ex: the Louisville game where Montrezl Harrell tried to run with Cauley-Stein and he ended up on the floor).
This is what WVU is going to try to do. Fast-breaks are their favorite and it’s been said that against the Mountaineers, you’re either going to score or you’re going to turn the ball over. But if we’ve learned one thing this season is that you don’t want to run with Kentucky because you will lose every time. Basically, if the Mountaineers don’t watch out, it may turn into a dunk fest.
How is Kentucky going to fight this? Well, they happen to have two terrific point guards who have shown that they very capable of handling a full court press. We have freshman Tyler Ulis who is extremely fast, scrappy, and is a terrific ball handler. More than likely he will be able to out-run and out-skill any defender that Huggins puts on him. His assist-to-turnover ratio ranks in the top five. Plus, if Kentucky can successfully beat the Mountaineers’ press in the backcourt, there is a great chance they can score. WVU ranks 164th in points per game allowed. A couple of other interesting rankings that could work in Kentucky’s favor? West Virginia ranks 346th in rebounds per game and 246th in blocks per game.
West Virginia might love to press, but chances are they haven’t tried to press a team with the size of Kentucky. Andrew Harrison, who is 6’6, can bring the ball down the court and throw over the defense in order to get it across half court. WVU’s tallest guard is Daxter Miles Jr. who is 6’3″ compared to the Twins who are 6’6″. Andrew will be able to see over their defense to get it to Towns, Cauley-Stein, or Lyles, which is where we get the dunks.
Because West Virginia does not rebound and block well, Kentucky will be able to get plenty of second chance shots, that throughout the season have proven to be dunks when they can just not get the ball in. Kentucky might also try to use their height to pass over the defense to the outside shooters after everyone has flooded the paint trying to grab a rebound. This is where Andrew, Aaron, and Devin Booker’s points will come from.
No matter what, after Daxter Miles Jr. decided to proclaim that WVU was going to beat Kentucky tomorrow’s game is going to be interesting.