Preview and Prediction: UK vs Indiana

In what will be the marquee game of the day the Kentucky Wildcats will face the Indiana Hoosiers for a chance to go to the Sweet 16.  It will be the first time the Hoosiers and the Cats have met since 2012 when Kentucky beat Indiana 102-90 in the Seet 16 on their way to winning the National Championship.  Of course none of the players on either team played in that game and they know very little about the rivalry.  As is almost always true the rivalry only exists for the fans that have followed the teams for years.  To the players it is just a game against a very good team with NCAA tournament elimination on the line which makes the stakes high enough.  Fans want bragging rights and to avoid losing to a hated rival.  Players want to survive and advance on the biggest stage in college basketball.  Rather than focusing on the rivalry lets take a look at what to expect in this game.

Indiana enters the game with a 26-7 record and as the Big 10 regular season champions.  They are a high scoring team led by 6’0 senior point guard Yogi Ferrell.  He is one of the quickest guards in college basketball and does most of his scoring on drives to the basket or shots from the 3 point line.  He averages 17 points and almost 6 assists per game.  He shoots 42% from 3 and 82% from the free throw line.  He is the most dangerous on drives to the basket where he can score at the rim or draw fouls.  He also gets the rest of his team involved when he penetrates to the basket.  The Cats game plan with him will likely be to try to limit his drives to the basket and force him to take contested jumpers.  Tyler Ulis and Isaiah Briscoe will both spend time guarding him and each of them seems well equipped to give Yogi some trouble.  On the other end of the court it will be interesting to see who Ferrell guards.  If he defends Ulis primarily it could be a chance to draw fouls on him as Tyler is one of the best at forcing contact with defenders.

The Hoosiers only true post presence is freshman center Thomas Bryant.  He is a 6’10 245 pound big man that was a 5 star recruit.  He averages 12 points and 6 rebounds a game.  He will be a load in the paint but he has found himself in foul trouble on many occasions this season which cold be a factor tonight.  He is not a high level shot blocker but he is a very good offensive rebounder which the Cats will need to keep an eye on.  Kentucky may not have a dominant front court but what they do have is several bodies to throw at Bryant.  Skal Labbissiere, Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress, and even Isaac Humphries will all likely get a chance to guard him.  Limiting Bryant on the glass is the main key to reducing his impact on the game.

The Hoosiers second leading scorer is Troy Williams who is a 6’7 forward.  The junior averages 13 points and 6 rebounds per game.  He is a super athletic forward that is very quick and make highlight dunks on a regular basis.  He is not a post scorer but does a lot of damage in the paint by slashing to the basket and also on offensive rebounds.  Alex Poythress seems to be the most suited defender for his game but Derek Willis will also need to defend him some.  The key to Williams is forcing him to take jump shots and keeping him off the glass on offense.

The other Indiana players that are contributors are Robert Johnson, Max Bielfeldt, Nick Zeisloft, Colin Hartman, and Og Anunoby.  This entire group of players is dangerous beyond the 3 point line and Johnson, Bielfeldt, and Zeisloft are exceptionally deadly.  Covering them is crucial especially when Ferrell is driving to the basket.  Og Anunoby is a 6’8 freshman that is a freakish athlete capable of making big plays.  He averages just 13 minutes a game on the season but has played more recently and will likely be on the floor a lot today against the Cats.

As a team Indiana has the second highest field goal percentage of any team in the nation at 50.5%.  On the flip side their field goal percentage defense is 44.3% which ranks just 223rd in the nation.  In comparison Kentucky shoots 48% from the field while their opponents shoot 39.5%.  The other stat that stood out at me was that Indiana’s opponents have just shot 563 free throws compared to the Cats opponents who have shot 826.  What that tells me is that the Hoosiers do not defend drives to the basket with physicality.  There is no question they are a very good offensive team but the numbers say they are mediocre on defense which could be a key to this game.  They do rebound better than the Cats by the stats which will be another big key to the game.

Tyler Ulis will no doubt be a huge factor for the Cats today and will be a handful for the Hoosiers.  With that said I think he and Ferrell will somewhat cancel each others effectiveness out.  The player that will likely be the x factor for the Cats today is Jamal Murray.  The Hoosiers don’t really have an answer for him on the offensive side of the ball and could struggle to defend him.  Murray was somewhat cold in both of his last two games against Texas A&M and Stony Brook, perhaps he is due to get back to his red hot shooting today.

Then there is the Cats front court which continues to be the most telling factor of how this team plays.  If UK can get scoring from Poythress, Skal, Willis, and Lee it makes this team very hard to guard.  Even more important than scoring is the rebounding for this group.  If Kentucky out rebounds the Hoosiers they will almost certainly win the game.  The Cats are 19-2 when they out rebound their opponent so keep an eye on that stat.

This game will be a war that will likely go down to the wire.  I expect both teams to come ready to play and keep the game close throughout the contest.  It should be a fast paced high scoring game that will be very fun to watch.  In the end I think the Cats defense will be just enough to slow the Hoosiers down a bit.  Jamal Murray will have a big game and the Cats will march on to the Sweet 16 by a score of 85-81.  Hang on tight Big Blue Nation because today is going to be a wild ride!

You may also like...