Tonight’s matchup…Cleveland State.
After six long days of waiting and one Louisville loss later, the Cats are finally back on the hardwood tonight to face the Cleveland State Vikings. So who are the Cleveland State Vikings? A somewhat formidable opponent to say the least with Cleveland State matching wins with Kentucky against Robert Morris and Texas-Arlington. The Vikings are led by a trio of veteran guards that can put up points in bunches featuring sophomore Bryn Forbes at 19.6 ppg. With only one freshmen at the end of the bench, Cleveland State will bring experience and discipline face-to-face with a tremendously talented yet inexperienced Kentucky team that will be looking to avoid a slow start after a seemingly endless week away from the bright lights of Kentucky basketball. But here’s some more fun facts you might not have known about the Vikings:
-Cleveland State has produced only 8 NBA Draft picks in the schools history with Norris Cole in 2011 being the first since 1986. Kentucky has produced 8 NBA Draft picks in the past two seasons.
-In Gary Water’s eight seasons at the reigns for this Cleveland State team, the Vikings have seen four 20+ win seasons including a NCAA Tourney appearance in 2009.
-Despite that NCAA Tourney showing in 2009, Cleveland State has only made it to the dance on one other occasion where they lost in the Sweet-16 in 1986
-Kentucky is the only ranked team on Cleveland State’s schedule. Good luck Vikings.
Where the Cats need improvement:
Through the first five games of Kentucky’s young season as well as their two scrimmages, turnovers have been an issue that would in fact hurt them in the season’s lone loss against Michigan State. Kentucky has actually lost the turnover battle 59/57 thus far this season. That is in large part due to the mass majority of the minutes going to a lineup of nine freshmen. Kentucky’s freshmen have played 75 percent of the minutes this season, but make up for 85 percent of the team’s turnovers. With Cauley-Stein and Poythress being the only returning players receiving relevant minutes, the impact of the freshmen turnover issue puts more pressure on these kids to shoulder the weight of the BBN that has been placed on their shoulders.
The usual starters have been the only reliable assists source on this Cat’s team and they have still managed only 10.6 assists per game. The team as a whole is accumulating 14 assists per game which ranks Kentucky 121st in the nation in terms of sharing the ball. Kentucky has way too much talent all around for the ball to sit in one guy’s hands while he runs the show. When the Cats begin to get everyone involved consistently, they won’t be a team anyone will look forward to playing.
What Alex Poythress needs to show himself/the BBN
There are really only two “gimmie” games left this season. Once we hit December the schedule will feature Baylor, North Carolina, and Louisville. Plus the freshmen are getting better in a hurry and the rotation should tighten up as we inch closer to conference play. That being said, Alex Poythress needs to elevate his game in a hurry, while the competition is still notably inferior if he wants to be in the main rotation down the stretch. Despite the double-double in the season opener and the aggressive showing against Michigan State, Poythress has shown us a sub-par performance to say the least. Poythress doesn’t have terrible numbers and is 3rd on the team in rebounds with 40, but when you are a former McDonalds All-American and veteran on a young team, 5.6 points and 8.0 rebounds just aren’t good enough.
Kentucky is currently a 21.5 favorite over the visiting Vikings and the last time they met, it was a 24 point blowout. Coach Cal has had the team shooting extra free throws and surely the turnovers will be cut after that has been emphasized in practice for an entire week. If the Cats can add points with free throws and limit the turnovers, a 30-point victory is very realistic.