Sports

College Basketball Preview: Kentucky vs. Indiana

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All of the talk leading up to the game on Saturday leads to Dan Dakich’s comments. Dakich said earlier this week that if Indiana beats Kentucky then he won’t regard it as an upset. Before his statement throws you into an uproar, think about this, Dakich knows this Indiana team as well as anyone in the country. He knows they are playing really good basketball on both ends of the court. He knows they can beat Kentucky.

Will they? Well, that will be determined. If they do, will it be considered an upset? I’d say yes, but that doesn’t mean the Wildcats don’t have to come to play.

Indiana is off to an 8-0 start and the Hoosier faithful are absolutely thrilled about it. The atmosphere at Assembly Hall on Saturday will be bonkers. They have been waiting to win a game like this for a long, long time.

Most of their wins are against lesser opponents like Stony Brook, Gardner-Webb and Stetson. But, Indiana is not just squeaking by this opponents. They are handling them easily. Their eight wins are by an average of 24 points. And that includes wins over Butler at Assembly Hall (W, 75-59) and at North Carolina State (W, 86-75). N.C. State was picked to finish in the top four of the ACC in many publications.

Has Tom Crean finally turned the Hoosiers around? If he has, how has he finally done so?

Well, first off there is the addition of freshman Cody Zeller (6-11, 220). Zeller is a legit lottery NBA prospect that immediately upon his arrival in Bloomington provided them with that guy. A guy that is 6-11 and has an advanced skill set. He has an array of post moves and can score the basketball at the rim. He can step out and knock down the 18-footer. He has a tremendous set of hands. And for his size, he has the ability to get out and run the floor.

If forced to find a weakness in his game, it has to be his overall strength. On the offensive end he is talented enough to overcome his lack of muscle, but on the other end of the court it comes into play against bigger defenders. Fortunately, for the Hoosiers there aren’t many of those guys out there.

Through eight games he is leading the team in scoring with 15.5 points-per-game and is shooting a stupid 68-percent from the floor. That number is absolutely ridiculous. The team number is not far behind as they are shooting 57-percent, which ranks seventh in the country. He is also pulling down 7.5 rebounds, while recording 1.6 blocks and 2.6 steals. In their last win over Stetson, he put up 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting, and had seven rebounds, four blocks and four steals.

The kid is a stud.

Defensively, this is a team that gets at it. Through eight games they have lived off of forcing turnovers and they are one of the nation’s leaders in deflections. In their last win over Stetson, they forced 23 turnovers and scored 30 points off of those turnovers. I realize that Stetson is not UK, but Marquis Teague and the rest of the Wildcats will have to protect the basketball.

This is also a team that has had a ton of success scoring in the paint and the majority of that success can be credited strictly to Zeller. The kid is really talented and at this point in his career is better than both of his brothers. I hate to keep harping on the Stetson game, but in that contest the Hoosiers scored 50 points in the paint compared to 14 for the Hatters. Yes, Stetson’s mascot is the Hatters.

Against the Wildcats, expect Indiana to slow things down. They won’t to limit possessions on both ends.

Their crowd will be going crazy, but they will try to do the exact opposite on the court. Just because they aren’t going to pressure the Wildcats full court doesn’t mean they won’t try to live off of turnovers. In the half court, expect the Hoosiers to be extremely active, with hands in passing lanes, in an attempt to turn UK over. They know the Cats are extremely talented and athletic, but they also know they are young and that this is their first test in a raucous environment. How will Teague and the rest of the boys handle that pressure?

I agree with Dan Dakich to a point. I think this game will be a lot closer than many are predicting. However, if the Hoosiers do pull off the upset I would think that the majority of the college basketball world would consider it an upset. But, like I said in the opening, Dakich knows more about IU than pretty much anyone else. Maybe he knows something that we all don’t.

I say Indiana keeps it close, but Kentucky has too much talent and pulls away late.

Cats by 12. Kentucky 76, Indiana 64

This article originally appeared on Strait Pinkie.

Get more great Kentucky and Louisville analysis over at Strait Pinkie.