We are only one day away from the Dream Game between the Cats and Cards, and as usual, you cannot go anywhere in this state without people discussing/arguing over who will win. I’m not going to offer a prediction in this post, but I am going to talk about the five things I feel the Cards must do to come away with a victory tomorrow.
1. Defend the three – Unlike last year’s Kentucky team, the 2010-11 team has shown the ability to consistently knock down shots from deep. Collectively, this UK team shoots 41% from three point range.
With a lineup featuring any combination of Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins, Terrence Jones, and Josh Harrellson, they have four legit threats from outside.
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Unless Rick Pitino has been working on a zone in practice, I fully expect the Cards to play man-to-man for most of this game. If they choose to do so, the on ball defense must be good. If it isn’t, then help defenders will be forced to leave their man, thus leaving an open shooter.
And the Cats have no problem kicking the ball out if a drive is stopped.
If the Cards give the Kentucky a bunch of open looks from deep, it could be a long afternoon.
2. Establish a presence in the paint – Whether it be Terrence Jennings, Gorgui Dieng, Rakeem Buckles, or even a Chris Smith or Kyle Kuric, the Cards must have some threat from the post. If I’m looking at how to defend this Louisville team, I’m making sure I take the three away and force them to score in the paint.
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Now, as I said, it does not have to be from one of the Louisville 5s, it could be anybody, but the Cards must have a threat down there that forces UK to pay attention to the post.
If the Cards can have a presence in the paint, it will open up the outside, which is where they can really do damage.
3. Keep Peyton Siva in the game – Peyton is the one guy on Louisville who I feel has the athleticism to worry Kentucky. Peyton has shown the ability to get into the lane consistently and find the open man.
However, Peyton has also shown the ability to commit silly fouls on both the offensive and defensive ends. Tomorrow, he simply cannot do that. With Elisha Justice still recovering from a concussion and Russ Smith not yet in good enough condition cardiovascularly, Peyton will need to play most of this game.
Peyton has to not only cut down on, but eliminate the silly fouls. Against Kentucky, he cannot recklessly drive into the lane and commit an offensive foul or mindlessly reach in on defense and pick up a cheap one. Peyton has to play intelligent and take what is there, as opposed to forcing things.
I think this game could very much come down to this. If Peyton Siva stays in the game, so does Louisville. If he does not, then Louisville does not.
4. Play physical – This game will no doubt be a tough, physical battle. I believe as long as it doesn’t turn into a literal fight, the officials will allow a lot to occur. Because of that, I think it’s imperative for Louisville to play physical.
I’m not talking about hard fouls for physicality’s sake. I’m talking about playing with intensity and aggressiveness, and if it happens to result in an over the back or bump call, so be it. But the Cards cannot allow UK to push them around, figuratively or literally.
Keep in mind, Louisville plays almost twice as many guys as UK. The Cards can afford to pick up some fouls, whereas the Cats cannot.
UK will have to be careful in a physical game because even though I expect the officials to let a decent amount go, you know there will come a time when they tighten things up.
5. Push the pace – This is critical in my opinion. I don’t care how Kentucky chooses to play, Louisville must play fast. They are not a team right now that can win playing 40 minutes of half-court, run your offense, and defend for 35 seconds type of game.
Louisville’s best offense is fast paced, controlled chaos. When you look at the Cards’ best two wins this year, they were able to get the pace where they wanted it. Against Butler, Louisville sped up the Bulldogs just enough to get the game moving.
UNLV, like UK a team that does not play many guys, also chose to run with Louisville. The Rebels were right there most of the game, but in the final 7-8 minutes, fatigue finally set in and the Cards pulled away.
Speaking of fatigue, I think this could be a huge factor in the game. John Calipari said after UK’s win over Coppin State he feels he has a six man rotation he’s comfortable with. If that’s the case, even more reason for Louisville to push the pace.
Kentucky is very talented, but also very young. For Jones, Lamb, and Knight, this will be their first time in an atmosphere like Louisville vs. Kentucky. I realize they played at Chapel Hill, but I’m sorry, the atmosphere will be completely different.
Add nerves and excitement to a fast game, and fatigue will definitely come into play.
I think the fact that Louisville plays better at a quick pace, plus the fatigue element, are prime reasons to make sure this game is played fast. But, Louisville must be careful. While a quick pace is good for Louisville, a hellaciously fast game, bordering on playground ball, does not.
We’ll find out in about 24 hours how this all plays out. Regardless of the outcome, it should be extremely fun to watch.