Well, here we are. We are now staring at the game many of us have had circled since the schedule was released, the biannual trip to the dreadful confines of Rupp Arena. Tonight's loss sucked. Many things looked bad. Many things have looked bad for the past couple weeks (even the whole season if you want). But I'm wide awake and feeling optimistic that we can bring home a W. You'll probably say, take off the red glasses and get real. But I honestly think we have a decent shot at winning this game. IMO we win this game 1 maybe 2 times out of 5. UK is good, but they aren't perfect. I've watched them many times this year as I'm a fan of college basketball and they are damn fun to watch (and cheer against). But they have flaws. Here is a breakdown of why I think we will win Saturday.
PG - Siva vs. Teague: This is gonna be an excellent measure of which system is better, seasoned vertan or one and done freshman. Siva has been playing like crap lately. Something has been in his head. But whatever it is seems to be gone after the Gtown game. He came out with 15pts, 6ast, 5stl, 5-10 FG, 5-6 FT and only 2to. Excellent game. Much improved over his last few efforts. He had a few ill advised shots but I thinks that's mainly from Pitino chewing him out and telling him to look for his shot more. I feel that he will find a good balance in the next game between gun and distributer and start playing like we know he can. Teague on the other hand I feel is the worst of the Cal one and done freshman PGs. He just hasn't had that wow factor like the others had. He is averaging 3 TOs per game and has had four straight games of 4 or more TO (6 last game). I feel Siva can get some pressure on him and win the matchup.
SG - Smiths vs. Lamb: This is gonna be a matchup of guns. Lamb is UKs most effective shooter and Russ is our most effective scorer. This matchup has the most scoring potential of any of them. Russ and Chris will provide the better D but they MUST NOT LEAVE Lamb. He can light us up if we do. Don't think we win necessarily "win" this matchup but we can definitely go even or keep it close.
SF - Kuric vs. Gilchrist: This matchup scares me the most. Gilchrist is an absolute stud. He is their best player in my opinion. He just does everything for his team and I am afraid his length is gonna affect Kyle. But then again, most of Kyle's points come off of wide open threes and dunks. So this might not be as bad for him as it appears. What scares me is, how is he gonna guard Gilchrist? This could be dangerous and I can only hope that he doesn't drop 30 on us. If we keep him from having 30 points or a triple double then that will be a win in my book.
PF - Chane/Rock/Swop vs. Jones: This is a matchup I am most confident in (PG is a close second). Jones seems to be a shell of his former self. He came back tonight with 9 and 6 off the bench but I still don't feel he is their most dangerous player. At this time last year, he was their best player and we focused everything we had on stopping him (which caused the monster game by Jorts). But I feel we won't have to worry about that this year. Chane is a bull and will be able to match him in strength and skill. If Jones was at full strength I'd be more worried but with our ability to throw three PFs at him I feel we will be sufficient enough to win this matchup.
C - Gorgui vs. Davis: Here we have length and shot blocking vs length and shot blocking. Perimeter game goes to Davis and his freaky late growth spurt. Post game goes to Gorgui as I feel he is slightly more polished down low. Remember, even though Gorgui is new to the game, Davis is still new to being a big man. He has the most POTENTIAL of any current college player but right now, I feel Gorgui is better. Davis will be the better pro but that means nothing right now. Both guys will rebound. Both will block/alter shots. Both will dunk. I see these two being about 50/50 at this point with the potential to go slightly either way. If either gets in foul trouble it will be HUGE. Could be the game decider.
Bench - Swop/Rock/Chris vs. Miller/Eloy/Wiltjer - I feel our bench is much stronger than UK's. I only listed three but we can potentially throw three other competent guys in there (Bullet, Price, Angel). This is it for UK. Miller is the overall best player of the benches but Eloy is just a big body and Wiltjer is still too slow to be very effective overall. Swop has had glimpses of his normal self and Rock has too but they've both had their share of bad. Swop seems a bit timid still and Rock trys to do too much and be too fancy at times. If we can keep a hand up on Miller and Wiltjer we should be ok here.
Why we should worry
They are good. Best team we have played yet. They're strengths are 3 pt shooting and their athleticism. If we don't cover their shooters it could get ugly. We are athletic as well but they are just damn long. We must be smart or they have a dunk fest. If we are not on our A game they could run away with it. Oh yeah, there is also a little factor called the crowd. This environment will be nasty. Just seems like this game is going to be a crescendo of hate and could get ugly. The coaches hate each other. Fans hate each other. How will these players react? Any kind of small incident or run could blow the place up. People may die. Seriously
Why we should be calm
We aren't too shabby ourselves. If we are on our game and not making stupid mental erros like we did tonight then we can be exciting to watch. On our A game there isn't a team we can't beat. On our D or F game there isn't a team that can't beat us. As poor as we looked at time against Gtown, I was very impressed with our play at many times. We shot the ball well, the old Siva is almost 100%, and our D was good for most of the game. We must be able to defend the three and take care of the ball (no TOs and good shots) for us to have a chance. We also have the more experienced team. Most of their ket contributors have never experienced this rivalry. Our player will know how to approach this game and handle the emotions. Foul trouble could be deadly for UK and high emotion games often lead to tightly officiated games. We also have the best coach of the two. Just ask God/Allah/Jesus/Jeff Goodman himself.
I think we can win this game. I am confident that it is our year to finally beat the squid and Pitino will have them better scouted this year. Siva seems to be back. Russ is on fire. Gorgui had an off game due to foul trouble but had four double doubles before this. King stay the King. Nuff said. And our PF trio will wreak havoc. I think we go in there and pull out a 78-74 W. Yeah I'm optimistic but what do you want? I'm not gonna sit here and talk shit about my beloved CARDS.
The future win or lose
This game will set the tone for conference play. We win or even just play a close one and we will have some excellent momentum going up against a few sub par BEast teams. We get blown out and look bad and we have serious questions to ask. No matter what happens I still feel we are on track to peak later in the season. We are essentially playing only 8 players now. Our biggest strength was supposed to be our depth this year. With Ware and Wayne slowly getting back into the system, we will have the opportunity to go ten deep with Bullet, Angel, and Price giving spot minuted occasionally. Just think if we had Marra and SVT. We still have the potential to go far and this week won't determine our long term future. This will be the biggest game of the year so far and CAN NOT WAIT.