Friday, March 23, 2012

Indiana vs Kentucky--Sweet 16 Version

Can Indiana beat Kentucky again?  That’s the question that’s been on every basketball analyst’s mind since the Sweet 16 matchup was set.

The simple answer is, well, yes!  They’ve already done it once, so there’s no reason they can’t do it again.
I ought to have this framed

That game in December is most likely in the top five Hoosier basketball games of all time.  Christian Watford’s shot might rival Keith Smart’s shot to win the 1987 National Championship.  At the time, I argued there might be no bigger shot in Indiana history, because of where the program has been the last few years.  It brought the Hoosiers back to the forefront of college basketball again, hopefully for a long time to come.

But the doubters will say, hey that game was an early season game in Assembly Hall and they needed a last second three pointer to do it.  Fine, all those things are true, but Indiana was the better team for most of that game.  Believe it or not, as young as the Hoosiers are, they have that much experience, too.  Guys like Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, and Verdell Jones are all upperclassmen, and have played Kentucky before.

What’s different about this game coming up tonight is that Kentucky has gotten better.  Yes, they have a ton of freshman like every Calipari team does, but like every Calipari team in recent memory, those freshman are the most talented players on the floor.  Anthony Davis is likely to be not only the freshman of the year, but the national player of the year as well.  Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is an NBA talent (reports yesterday said that MKG will declare for the draft whenever the Wildcats are done playing).  Marquis Teague is one of the players who’s improved the most.  Kyle Wiltjer won’t blow anyone away with athleticism, and he doesn’t get a ton of PT, but he shoots 41% from beyond the arc.

Let’s not forget to mention the Wildcats’ sophomores, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb.  Jones disappeared in the first meeting in Bloomington, but I don’t think that will happen again.  Jones only scored four points, and looked like he wanted to run and hide.  Lamb can light it up from deep whenever he wants to.

For Indiana to beat Kentucky again, a few things have to happen.

1. Indiana Must Take Care of the Ball
There may be no better transition team in college basketball than Kentucky.  Turn the ball over (which Indiana is prone to do), and Tom Crean will have nightmares featuring alley-oops and highlight reel dunks.  Indiana will be without Verdell Jones III, who while can be turnover prone, can also make a mid range jumper.

2. Indiana Must Hit Their Threes
Anthony Davis is the nation’s best shot blocker.  So, Indiana can either try to draw Davis away from the rim, or they can knockdown more three’s than they miss.  Easier said than done, sure, but IU is one of the best three point shooting teams in the country.  Jordan Hulls, Watford, Will Sheehey, Derek Elston, and Matt Roth are all shooting at least 39% from deep.

3. Indiana Must Get Anthony Davis in Foul Trouble
Davis had foul trouble in December in Bloomington, but he’s not likely to again.  He’s been really good at not fouling, especially lately.  Hopefully Cody Zeller is able to go right at Davis and draw a couple of early fouls, forcing Calipari to sit Davis.

4. Indiana Must Rebound Well
I expect Tom Crean to employ more zone than man, so as to neutralize Kentucky’s alley-oop game, slow the game down, and force UK to make shots to win.  As most basketball fans know, it’s tough to reboundout of the zone.  Watford, Zeller, Victor Oladipo, and Elston need to have big games crashing the boards.

Full disclosure, I think Kentucky will win the game, as much as it pains me to say it.  That being said, I think Indiana has more of a chance to come out on top again than people realize. 

Plus, I can’t tell you how happy I’d be to see Casual Gamer Reed’s reaction.

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