(2) Kentucky vs. (7) Green Bay
Mon., Mar. 19 - 9:45 p.m. ET
Play 'em one game at a time. Anyone can beat anyone on any given day. That's why they call it March Madness. That uses up just about every cliche' I know when it comes to early exits from the Tournament. Just ask Duke(FWIW, I am planning on copyrighting the "just ask Duke").
If Kentucky wants to avoid the "Duke Penalty" in this Tourney, they are going to have to step it up against a Wisc. Green Bay squad that does not like to lose.
Let's break down the game in detail after the jump.The plain truth is that when UK sees Green Bay on the court, they will be looking into a mirror. Green Bay plays the same tough-nosed pressing defense that UK employs. They are second in the nation in TO ratio to UK. They average 24.9 per game, and their margin is +9.4. This is a defense that UK has never faced, except in practice. They play hard and fast, they play physical, and they force you into more mistakes than you can count, and that's on a good day. For UK to overcome this opponent, they are going to have to step up their ball handling, make critical shots and not miss open looks. Something that UK has not been doing of late.
These things are not lost on Coach Matthew Mitchell:
“I don’t know if I’ve seen a team play better than I saw Green Bay play last night, all year, that was as impressive of 40 minutes from a team as I’ve seen all season. Just the intensity with which they played last night. They just played so hard, they really spread you out and it looks like all five players can drive the ball. They’re just a smart, aggressive, extremely physical team that can make you pay for mistakes. There’s a lot of things that worry me, but I think right now, offensively, their versatility on offense and just their tenacity and their ability to be physical on defense.”
There is a lot to this Green Bay squad. Located in Green Bay, Wis., they earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament by claiming the Horizon League Championship. They beat 10th seeded Iowa State 71-57 after forcing the Cyclones into 30 turnovers, including 19 in the first half. Julie Wojta, a senior, averages a double-double with 19.6 points and 10.0 rebounds per game, and she also leads the Phoenix offense with 3.6 assists per game. On the defensive end, she averages 3.7 steals per game. Adrian Ritchie and Lydia Bauer also average double-figures with 12.5 and 11.2 points per game, respectively.
Green Bay ended the season ranked No. 10 in the final AP poll, and they are in the top-15 nationally in eight statistical categories, including scoring offense, scoring margin, field-goal percentage, won-lost percentage, assists per game, steals per game, turnover margin and assist-turnover ratio.
This could turn out to be one of the lowest scoring games of the tournament, based upon the defensive prowess of both clubs, and then again, they may both make me look bad and score 100 points each. One thing which is guaranteed, however, A'dia Mathies is going to have to break out of this funk she seems to be playing in lately if the Cats have any chance of moving on in this Tourney. a big game for A'dia can go a long way towards victory if her compadres decide to play along. Nothing less than a total effort by Kentucky is going to get it done in this game. If I sound concerned, I am. If UK can overcome this obstacle, they may very well have a path to the Final Four laid right in front of themselves.