As we look forward to tomorrow's huge game against top seed Kansas (5:00 p.m. ET, CBS) in Chicago, A Sea of Blue takes a look at some of the things we do, and do not, know about the Wildcats.
What We Know
I Randy So Far Away
What can you say about Mr. Morris? He likes big games, especially tournament games. The Big Cat scored 19 with 11 boards against the other Wildcats, and owned the defensive glass for UK.
It's really not that hard to theorize that as Morris goes, so go the Wildcats. But it's still true. Kansas features long wings in Darrell Arthur and Julian Wright, as well as beefy big men in Sasha Kaun and Darnell Jackson. But there is not much frontcourt depth, even in raw fouls, for the Jawhawks. Quality reigns over quantity, however, as Woo and Perry Stevenson bring much less to the table.
Still, the point of this exercise is to say what we know, and that's that Randolph Morris is the best scoring option and the best chance the Wildcats have of moving on. There is no way this UK team can overcome a poor or foul-plagued game from Randy and beat Kansas.
The teams that have bothered KU this season -- Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Depaul -- all took the game to the more talented, better hyped 'Hawks. In a tournament setting, where in this case Kentucky has much less pressure to live up to its seed or recent history, despite the pressures that are on the Cats. Recent NCAA failures aren't erased by a blowout of the play-in winner.
It is beyond doubt something we know that this Kentucky team has no room for error or lack of will Sunday. There can be no 8-minute scoring drought in the first half, nor a 17-point deficit. Kansas has too many weapons and too much to play for.
A Day at the Bench
Once again, Jodie Meeks came to play, and just when UK needed his scoring touch. Strong performances by Sheray Thomas and Meeks proved the difference in a grind-it-out game with Villanova.
Kansas boasts a stable of top line players, but after supersub Sherron Collins and the forward/center Jackson, there's not much to bring in that Kentucky can't match.
The Cats will again need the bench to show up huge if it weants to upset the Jayhawks, that much we know.
What We Don't Know
The Ghost of Tournaments Past
I could try and conjure up ways in which, statistically or personnel-wise, Kentucky can beat Kansas tomorrow. And there are some. But what we don't know, in this case, is whether these guys can capture some of that Kentucky tournament magic.
Everyone has to play well, and the team as a whole ahs to play well. Duh. But that intangible something that the Cats could not capture when it counted against UCONN last season, in an eerily similar situation, has to be there this time if the team hopes to have a different result than last year.
Smith is saying all the right things, and thus far has to be pleased with his team's response to an otherwise uncomfortable first weekend. All the clouds around his head opened long enough to see his point guard pass, his center dominate inside and his defense actually do its job.
But will it last? If the Kentucky that comes out early against Kansas is the UK of LSU first half or Georgia second half, will Tubby Smith have a miracle up his sleeve? How much of that serenity is knowing something we don't know, if any at all?
Who Will Win?
It's stupid and simple, but the game still has to be played.
Somewhere along the line, we forget that all the stats and trends and potential outcomes in the world are still no substitute for that strangely final outcome in reality.
Once again, we find ourselves feeling that the Cats can beat Kansas tomorrow. But we have no idea if they will, nor even if the same Kentucky team that beat Nova shows up. Or one better. Or, what we fear, one far worse.
But we'll only know who wins after they play. And after all the speculation and rumors and everything, there's something vaguely reassuring that tomorrow, win or lose, there's more answers than questions.