Column: Scouting the Wildcats
By Avi Zaleon
What A chance to shock the country ... again
When 9:45 p.m. Friday
Where Georgia Dome, Atlanta
How to watch CBS (Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg), Westwood One radio (Ian Eagle and John Thompson), IU Radio Network, Live Audio on IUHoosiers.com
Head coach John Calipari, third season
Leading scorer Freshman forward Anthony Davis, 14.3 ppg
Leading rebounder Freshman forward Anthony Davis, 10.0 rpg
Best win At home against North Carolina, 73-72
Worst loss Umm ... N/A?
What they do well Playing close to the rim. The Wildcats rank first in the nation in blocks, 24th in rebounding percentage and 10th in field goal percentage.
What needs work
What they don't do well Graduating players. In three seasons under Calipari, the Wildcats have had seven players leave school for the NBA before receiving a diploma (Eric Bledsoe, DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Liggins, Daniel Orton, John Wall, Brandon Knight and Enes Kanter). Three more are likely to bolt after this season.
G Jordan Hulls 11.7 points per game
G Victor Oladipo 10.7
F Will Sheehey 8.6
F Christian Watford 12.2
F Cody Zeller 15.5
G Doron Lamb 13.4 points per game
G Marquis Teague 9.9
G Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 11.5
F Terrence Jones 12.6
F Anthony Davis 14.3
All logic points to the Wildcats winning this game and advancing to the Elite Eight. Kentucky has unbelievable length and athleticism and has developed a more prolific offense to accompany its already superb defense. The Wildcats are limiting opponents to just 37 percent shooting from the field — lowest in the country — and have blocked the most shots in the country thanks to freshman forward Anthony Davis.
But there’s another factor at play here that makes useless speculation even more meaningless than usual.
It’s March, and anything can happen. Not one perfect bracket has been filled out this year. Two No. 2 seeds have gone down in the first round for the first time in NCAA Tournament history.
I can tell you this, though. When one squad wins “the Rematch” and ends the other’s season, the following will have happened.
1) Big man avoided foul trouble. Davis and freshman forward Cody Zeller are both integral parts of their teams. Davis has yet to receive more than four fouls since doing so against IU in the first meeting but has yet to face another big man of Zeller’s caliber.
Meanwhile, the Hoosiers star freshman has consistently contributed for IU in this tournament, averaging 15 points in two games. If one of these forwards is limited by fouls, their team will be at a big disadvantage.
2) Avoided giving up easy buckets. The Wildcats exploded from beyond the arc against Iowa State in an uncharacteristic 10-of-20 shooting performance from 3-point range. I don’t think that will happen again tonight. Where Kentucky can hurt you, though, is with transition buckets, converting frequent defensive stops into easy lay-ins on the other end of the court.
3) Poise. I can see this game coming down to single-digits with less than two minutes to go, and it’ll be all mental when it comes down to the wire.
What wins out? UK’s superior, young talent or the experience of IU?
Against VCU, the Hoosiers kept their composure and won the last two minutes to advance, but playing from behind against the Wildcats will not be the same.
In the end, I think IU will lose by seven. But let’s face it: College basketball is unpredictable, and that’s why we love it. Norfolk State can beat Missouri, Butler can make it to the final game — twice — and Kentucky can lose its only game of the regular season on a buzzer-beater.