Bald Prophet Preview: Kentucky V. Connecticut

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Bald Prophet Preview:  Kentucky V. Connecticut
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At A Glance

 

Kentucky:  8-0.  AP Rank: 4  ESPN Rank: 4  BP Rank: 4  RPI:  36  BPI: 7

Connecticut:  6-1.  AP Rank: 14  ESPN Rank: 12 BP Rank: 12  RPI: 10  BPI: 70

 

Point Guards:

 

Not only has the nation seen what John Wall can do on the court but against North Carolina he showed his impact when he had to go off the court due to tendinitis and cramps.  The ‘Cats are clearly not the same team without his services and look very beatable.  There’s obviously no concern in Lexington about Wall’s game but his injury situation obviously is a concern.

Kemba Walker was UConn’s sixth man last season and has emerged as a top-tier point guard this season.  Jim Calhoun has already said his charges will not try and stop Wall with one person and that should ease things for Walker, allowing him to continue his successful campaign.  He shoots well from the field and foul line and has a near 2-to-1 assist to turnover ratio.

 

Advantage:  Kentucky, but only because Wall is a overall no.1 pick waiting to happen and says he should be ready to go.

 

Shooting Guards:

 

Eric Bledsoe struggled running the offense when Wall went out but showed toughness by hitting some late free throws to put the game on ice.  As long as Wall is on the floor Bledsoe’s life is a lot easier.  However, he has only shot 38 percent from the field in the last five games.

Jerome Dyson comes off a great battle with Harvard’s Jeremy Lin (yes, I know that sounds strange but Lin can play) where he nearly got a triple-double.  He’s not going to impress with his shooting (38 percent) but he gets his points anyway (20 ppg).  He can also do anything else you ask (he’s even averaging more than a block a game).  Kentucky will have their hands full.

 

Advantage:  UConn.  Dyson is more established and brings a more complete game.

 

Small Forwards:

 

Darius Miller had a couple of threes during the 28-2 run against the Heels but also had one of his better defensive games.  Considering that he will probably draw Stanley Robinson in this matchup that had to make John Calipari smile (though you wouldn’t know it from some of his comments). 

Robinson’s comeback from suspension has been well-documented and he was recently quoted about his dislike for DeMarcus Cousins’ comments.  Regardless of the verbal battle, Robinson’s game speaks for itself.  He doesn’t miss often (53 percent), has more assists than turnovers and averages almost two blocks a game.

 

Advantage:  UConn.  Miller simply can’t match up with Robinson on the defensive end.

 

Power Forwards:

 

Patrick Patterson is still earning lots of press even though some could argue that Wall is the best player on the ‘Cats roster.  Even though he averages a double-double and is a constant target he has not collected more than two fouls in any game this year.  His combination of intelligence and blue-collar play makes him a top candidate for first-team All-America honors.

Alex Oriakhi was hyped coming in to his freshman campaign.  He collects rebounds and can block shots but failed to make a basket against Harvard.  He could be an interesting challenge on the defensive end for Patterson but don’t expect a lot of scoring from him.

 

Advantage:  Kentucky.  Oriakhi has promise but Patterson has performance.

 

Centers:

 

Cousins has shown he can be unstoppable at times but against North Carolina also showed his frustration too much at times.  He’s had at least three fouls in every game but one, and only shot two for seven against North Carolina.  Considering UConn’s tall timber Cousins will be an interesting player to watch.

Gavin Edwards has been another key bench player on previous Husky teams.  His point production tripled from last season, mainly because he shoots nothing but dunks and closer, and he is also their best shot blocker.  Like Cousins, he is prone to foul trouble but that is due more to his propensity for shot swattage.

 

Advantage:  Even, but Cousins can gain an edge if his head stays in the game.

 

Bench:

 

Daniel Orton and Perry Stevenson received huge amounts of praise from Calipari following their performance against North Carolina.  Darnell Dodson continued his radar love (39 percent from three this season).   Ramon Harris may also see some time due to his defensive efforts – he may have the best chance at slowing down Dyson and/or Robinson.

UConn’s bench is, well, thin.  Jamal Coombs-McDaniel is the only player that doesn’t start who averages double figures in minutes, and if he keeps his membership in the bricklayer’s union (26 percent from the field), his minutes may decrease.  The bottom line is that the starters have to stay on the floor and Calhoun has to hope for any production from his bench when the starters need a break.

 

Advantage:  Kentucky.  It’s not even close.

 

Coaches:

 

To hear Calipari talk his charges aren’t fit enough to be considered an elite team.  In a related story Lou Holtz has been writing Calipari’s speeches to the press.  True, the turnovers continue to be a problem but there’s such a bevy of talent on this team that it’s hard to believe they won’t be a well-oiled machine sooner than later.

Calhoun won’t hesitate to tell you what he really thinks.  He is New England to the bone and is very close to having an undefeated team this season.  These Huskies have heeded the call on defense but he needs to develop one or two players off the bench or else this team will be sapped come March.

 

Advantage: Even.  This game isn’t going to come down to a chess match between the minds on the bench.  It will be decided on execution.

 

Prediction:

 

UConn will give the ‘Cats everything they can handle on defense.  Physically they match up well and even Wall may not be able to have his way all the time in this game.  But considering the likely physical battle, expect the Huskies to feel the effects of foul trouble toward the end.

 

Kentucky, 70-61.

 

 

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