UK @ Tennessee – Preview
Posted by ibleedblue040 on March 1, 2008
Just two days ago this game had the makings of becoming yet another classic between the Kentucky Wildcats and the Tennessee Volunteers, but after the news that was released yesterday about Patrick Patterson being out for the remainder of the season the circumstances changed, as did the NCAA hopes that UK was starting to gain. Now it will take a mircale to win any game left on the Wildcats’ schedule because Patterson was really the only interior threat that the ‘Cats had to offer and now the giant void that he leaves will have to be filled by Mark Coury, AJ Stewart & Jared Carter, three players who, if you added up their season averages, do not average as many points, rebounds, or minutes per game as Patterson. Without Patterson I do not see the Wildcats winning another game this season. It is frankly near impossible for Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford to carry a team almost by themselves against Southeastern Conference competition, teams will now be daring UK to score inside and will probably double team Bradley & Crawford whenever they touch the ball.
KEYS TO THE GAME
The first KEY TO THE GAME is an obvious one, UK needs to establish a post prescence against the Tennessee Volunteers. We forget because of the Patterson news that it is Tennessee we are playing next, a team that was #1 in the country less than a week ago (For a few hours). Tennessee has very good perimeter defending guards so they probably will not be double teaming Crawford and Bradley unless they are in the corners, so somebody like Coury, Stevenson, Carter, or Stewart has to step up and get at least 8-9 points and 5-6 rebounds. If UK does not get solid production from their big men tomorrow there is no way they will even be in the game past the first 10 minutes. The Volunteers have the deepest bench in the SEC so none of their guys will be tired most likely, that means they will automatically have an advantage because they will always be full of energy and ready to go at any time, Kentucky will not because most of their guys that play average over 20-25 minutes a game. I do not see Coury or Carter playing well at all so the load falls on sophmore Perry Stevenson and rarely used freshman (Although he should have been used more) AJ Stewart.
The second KEY TO THE GAME for tomorrow is to slow down Chris Lofton. Lofton tourched the ‘Cats in the first half of the last meeting and gave the Volunteers a 6 point halftime lead, but in the second have Ramel Bradley switched onto Lofton and shut him down completely en route to a UK victory. If Lofton gets over 23 points or so UK will be in trouble because if he scores 25 that means that he was nailing threes at crucial times and ending UK runs with jump shots. Every time Lofton scores the crowd at Thompson Boling Arena goes crazy no matter if it is a 25 foot three-pointer or a wide open layup, so if Lofton plays well that means that the crowd will be into it and with the young team that UK is bringing into Knoxville (Aside from Bradley & Crawford) the crowd can easily make the Wildcats play silly and sloppy basketball. When Lofton scores over 20 points this season UT is 7-2, with losses coming to Kentucky in the first meeting earlier this season and Vanderbilt in the last game out, and when Lofton scores over 20 he usually plays pretty efficient, shooting 50% from the floor in 6 of the 9 games he has scored 20 in. Also when Lofton makes 4 threes or more in a game the Vols are 10-3 this season, so if UK keeps Lofton to around 17 points and 2 threes then Kentucky might actually make this game somewhat close.
The third and final KEY TO THE GAME for tomorrow is to get to the free throw line and hit free throws. Kentucky is the best free throw shooting team in the SEC at around 75% but going into a hostile enviornment like Knoxville will make even the best free throw shooting teams struggle. Kentucky is very young aside from their starting backcourt so they have a very good chance of getting rattled somewhat easily. Kentucky might have won the first matchup against the Volunteers because of the discrepancy in the free throw shooting. UK was a fabulous 24-28 from the line while UT was only 15-21. Kentucky missed less free throws and went to the line a lot more. If the Wildcats can shoot very good from the line and prevent the Vols from getting there then I think the ‘Cats can keep it close. What I am afraid of though is UK going to the line only about 12 times and letting the crowd get into their head and not really focusing too much and only making about 6 of them. Tennessee is not a very good free throw shooting team but they are much better at home than on the road so I think UT will shoot much better this time around than before.
My prediction for the game tomorrow is that Tennessee comes out with a chip on their shoulder from losing last time to the Wildcats and I think they start off quick and catch the ‘Cats off guard a little bit. I think Tennessee will win 80-63 over Kentucky, I just think UT has too many weapons that are interchangible and I think Bruce Pearl will find a way to get Lofton the ball a lot and I think he finishes with 24 points and 5 threes. UK most likely will score only about 6 points in the paint from their big guys and when most of your points in the paint come courtesy of your guards then you are in some serious trouble.
March 2 @ Tennessee
12:00 pm EST on CBS