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Who Guards Ben Simmons?

Tuesday’s game against LSU will be an odd role reversal of sorts for Kentucky. In three of John Calipari’s first six years at Kentucky the Cats have featured the eventual number one draft pick. In the other three years, UK never faced off against the player who would go to to be selected first. In most games Coach Cal was the one with the most talented player on the court if not the top three but that won’t be the case on Tuesday night. No, that honor will belong to freshman superstar Ben Simmons.

Containing Ben Simmons is the key to taking down LSU. In five Tiger losses, Simmons has averaged 14.8 points. In 8 LSU wins (against bad teams) that stat jumps to 24 points. Clearly, Simmons’ is the key to LSU’s fortunes so who will be the player tasked with stopping him. Here are my three candidates:

Marcus Lee

Kentucky’s defensive specialist is an ideal match-up for Ben Simmons. Both players are long, lean, and super athletic which should make for a great offense/defense showdown. While I think Marcus can hang with Simmons on the inside it will be an interesting test to see how he does as Simmons spaces the floor and plays in transition. Last year when Marcus would sub in for Willie Cauley-Stein he showed an ability to switch and cover multiple positions that he hasn’t been asked to do this year. That could come in handy against Ben’s skillset.

Skal Labissiere

This is the match-up everyone was waiting to see in the preseason but one that I doubt we will see much of. Bottom line, Skal just isn’t ready to play college defense against a guy like Ben Simmons. Against Ole Miss last night he picked up 5 fouls in just 14 minutes of gametime. Against Duke and Arizona State he fouled out in 13 minutes. Could Skal provide some good minutes against Simmons? Yes, but he has to keep the foul situation under control and that may not be a risk Cal wants to take early in the game.

Alex Poythress

So who backs up Lee in this game? The answer is Alex Poythress. Poythress has the size, bulk, and athleticism that is capable of giving Simmons fits. Alex has shown capability in going up against players with a height advantage like Montrezl Harrell or an ability to slash like Sam Dekker. Those players combine in Simmons but I think Alex will be up to the task.


Who do you see going head to head with Simmons and do we have a shot to shut him down?


Article written by Andrew Cassady

Follow me @ACassady_KSR

20 Comments for Who Guards Ben Simmons?

  1. jonthes
    2:09 pm January 3, 2016 Permalink

    Rupp’s strategy used to be let the star get his points, shut down everyone else. You’d guard him but not open up the rest of the team by doubling. Might be the best idea for Simmons.

    2:30 pm January 3, 2016 Permalink

    LOL they are 8-5. The blue print is OUT. Ben Simmons is going to get his, he’s just better than everyone else. However, The object of the game is to have more points than the other team. Those guys obviously have issues outside of Simmons.

    • Bobbum Man
      3:32 pm January 3, 2016 Permalink

      Ohio state and ucla had lots of issues too and how’d that work out for us? We’re not in a position to overlook anyone

    • jonthes
      3:47 pm January 3, 2016 Permalink

      Overlook no, but the two losses were largely due to trying to force Skal into a star role he wasn’t ready for. If Skal was played as he is now we would’ve beaten Ohio State for certain, and UCLA would have been at least close.

    • Bobbum Man
      4:28 am January 4, 2016 Permalink

      True, but lsu has talent, just don’t like this matchup for us especially on the road. Simmons can flat out play, I hope he puts Lee on him I think he could cause some problems for him

  3. Kat4Life
    2:37 pm January 3, 2016 Permalink

    Answer……..doesn’t matter. He will get his 25 and 14……..I’d be more concerned about Hornsby and the supporting cast. If we play team defense the way we did against Ole Miss we will be fine…….First conference road game for a lot of players…..deer and headlight time.

  4. 2thepoint
    2:53 pm January 3, 2016 Permalink

    I agree with you about Hornsby. He is another Ricky Blanton in my view. I have been saying he is a guy that will go off on us so he better be guarded closely to keep that from happening. Simmons was pretty much left alone against Vandy last night and look what happened Vandy lost. I think we have to contain him, frustrate him a bit. This game will be a challenge to him so he will come to play; therefore, it is imperative we keep bodies on him without fouling if that is possible because he can make the free ones. My guess we get Shows again as a ref. If we get Ayers also look out. LSU doesn’t have a good record, but throw the record out they will be 100% ready so we had better be ready as well. I think they will be ready.

  5. scottg74
    2:54 pm January 3, 2016 Permalink

    Limit second chances for them to score, if he gets his then fine. We are known for opposing teams to have break out games. So doubling Simmons lets Hornsby and Blakeney the chance to go off.

  6. linebeard
    3:31 pm January 3, 2016 Permalink

    I think Alex is the obvious choice. Can guard him inside or out. And you do not just let him get his points, you do focus your defensive game plan toward him.

    • jonthes
      3:49 pm January 3, 2016 Permalink

      That worked with Moody, but I don’t think it will with Simmons. He’s scored a lot in their losses.

  7. Caliparty09
    4:16 pm January 3, 2016 Permalink

    Give Ben Simmons the Rondo treatment. His defender should sag to the free throw line and dare him to shoot threes.

  8. Breezearis
    4:18 pm January 3, 2016 Permalink

    Put Charles Matthews on him.

    • J-Dub421
      10:15 am January 4, 2016 Permalink

      CHarles Matthews is 6-4 and weighs 190, Simmons is a 6’10” forward and weighs 240. There is no way Matthews can guard him.

  9. bosshogg24
    5:38 pm January 3, 2016 Permalink

    Harrell did not have a height advantage on Alex!

  10. Delk for 3
    5:49 pm January 3, 2016 Permalink

    Alex cannot guard this guy in low. He will score all night over him inside. Alex simply doesn’t have the size to provide any challenge for him on the block. There is no need to guard this guy out on the floor. He can’t and won’t shoot from the outside. The choice is Marcus Lee. If Marcus gets in foul trouble, we are in real trouble.

  11. Kat4Life
    8:20 pm January 3, 2016 Permalink

    Damn how good would it be for him to pick up two early ones…….like at the 17:34 mark……….

  12. GroundControlToNumber9
    7:48 am January 4, 2016 Permalink

    Put Ulis or Dom on him until he starts posting up. We want to encourage him to shoot long range. Simmons has only shot 3 3-pointers this season (making 1).

    Big dribbling guards absolutely hate fast pocket pickers and it could disrupt Ben’s ability to drive and play-make (pass) which is where he is most effective.

    If Ben had a well rounded team he’s savy enough that we would be best served to go zone (only if LSU is able to hang in the first half). I just don’t think LSU’s team brings a 5 player attack so M2M should suffice (and allow us to play our game).

    Help defense is very important. Ben’s learned and continuing to learn how to playmake and find the open man at an exceptional level. Play underneath on screens and if he gets in the lane make him beat you with Jordan moves and not standard layups.

    Unfortunately Poythress can’t guard him (speed from the perimeter). You could try Skal but I wouldn’t do that for other reasons (let Skal play help defense with Lee and not have a horrible matchup to kill confidence even further).

    Ulis, Don, Murray, and Briscoe seems to be the only players that have the ability to guard him on the perimeter.

    It will be fun to see each player get a chance to stop an unstoppable player at the level

    The Bottom Line:

    1. This is a road game. The last and only other one of those didn’t go down so well (UCLA).

    2a. Stop him from driving – with quick guard play.

    2b. Force him to shoot from 15+ or pass – playing underneath screens. This means you need to have the speed to cut him off from the basket (having a shorter guard on him).

    3. Charles Matthews will be an awesome player for us. I would not put him on Ben Simmons unless he comes to the coach with a vendetta and demands it.

    4. Watch the game film of NC State did to him (1-6 for 4 points | 10 assists). Not sure what happened there but it loosk like pick your poison. If you stop his shot he will kill you with pass (if you don’t have a team effort on defense).

    Whatever you do you don’t have to beat him you have to beat his team. If the rest of the team plays lockdown defense we will win this game. The away game (and it’s crowd) is the biggest hurdle this team faces tomorrow night.

    • J-Dub421
      10:20 am January 4, 2016 Permalink

      Simmons is a forward, not a guard. Ulis would be giving up a foot or more in height and about 100 pounds in weight. There is no way any of our guards should be defending Simmons. He would just post them up and dominate them.

    • GroundControlToNumber9
      11:39 am January 4, 2016 Permalink

      J-Dub421 – If this is your response you have zero understanding of what I said i

      Ben Simmons plays as a point forward. Even though he is 6’9″ 225lbs. If he is to drive he must bounce the ball (bringing it down to the floor – the equalizer).

      Your comment appears to be without any history in watching examples of this very utilization in College and the NBA.

      As a side note… game in and game out as starters who do you think Spud Webb and Mugsy Boggs guarded when they played in the NBA? Much taller and heavier players.

      This strategy is only possible with elite level defensive talent like Ulis. It also depends on Simmons handle. The key here is where Simmons is normally focusing on finding the open lane or man he’s preoccupied with a firestorm on his bootstraps. Simmons has never faced Ulis or Dom and they might be just enough to disturb his modus operandi.

      With our help defense if Simmons were to post a switch could happen immediately.

      “There is no way any of our guards should be defending Simmons. He would just post them up and dominate them.”

      Your so sure of this end result yet imply he wouldn’t do the same to anyone else on our team at forward or center? He’s a “matchup problem” in the very sense of the definition. Outside of the box there is an entire world that you have never allowed to enter your brain. Sorry for you.

    • J-Dub421
      12:18 pm January 4, 2016 Permalink

      I simply doubt that Simmons will be bringing the ball upcourt a lot, or that he will be trying to drive from the top of the key, which is what your premise is predicated upon. Everyone knows we’re soft in the middle, so why wouldn’t Simmons be used to exploit that? Johnny Jones is a terrible coach, but he can’t be that stupid. You’re assuming that Simmons would try to drive on Ulis. I am assuming if he got that mismatch, Simmons would just back Ulis down using his superior size. Why would he choose to give Tyler the advantage? It’s not that what you proposed isn’t possible, I just don’t think it’s probable.

      How is Hawkins going to guard anyone when he’s injured and unlikely to play?

      If you’re going to use Muggsy Bogues as an example, at least spell his name correctly. Also, he was a decent point guard, but let’s not pretend like he was an all star or something, and I highly doubt he spent a lot of time guarding power forwards.