John Calipari knows that the Hoosiers are a dangerous foe.
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. -- George Santayana
This famous quote has often been restated in many ways, like "Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it," but you get the gist. Learn from where you have been, what you have done.
Likewise, the Kentucky Wildcats must learn from what happened on December 10th 2011or be likely to face the same fate again. John Calipari knows this, and so do the players. There is a lesson in ever game, and this one no less than others.
Many Kentucky will remember the previous game in a selective way, and point to things like venue (Bloomington was unquestionably the most hostile and outrageous crowd Kentucky has faced all year), the fact that it was early in the year, the fact that Indiana struggled away from home all year, and the idea that Indiana played unusually well against UK. But if Wildcats fans are smart, they will forget all those things, and here's why.
First of all, while the venue was an advantage, the crowd excitement probably didn't make that much difference. Home court advantages work out to around 3 to 4 points per contest, and while this crowd was unrelentingly hostile, it is doubtful that they made that advantage significantly greater, although given Kentucky's youth and the fact this was their first true home game, that factor may have been slightly greater than it normally would be.
Second is the "it was early in the year, and Kentucky was not as good as it is now" argument. I think everyone understands when they make that claim that both teams are better now than they were then. The Kentucky side of this argument is rather more nuanced, and basically goes to the idea that UK had more available gains to make over the course of the year due to their greater overall talent and youth.
While we can't simply reject that premise, it would seem dangerous to embrace it. Both teams have young stars mixed with older and more experienced players. Yes, Kentucky has more young players, and the Anthony Davis of December 10th is only a pale reflection of the Player of the Year candidate that he has grown into. Marquis Teague is much better also, as is Kyle Wiltjer and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. And, of course, Terrence Jones is not likely to vanish like he did in December.
But these things don't necessarily measure team performance. It is possible that Indiana has grown even more as a team than UK has, which is far more important than individual development. The fact of the matter is, perception can be deceiving in this area, and UK fans should leave that aside. We cannot know if Kentucky is really a better team now compared to Indiana than it was then. We think it is, and the statistics say so, but we don't really know that, and we can't just take it for granted. There is, of course, the matter of IU's loss of Verdell Jones III to a knee injury, but we'll be addressing that a little later on.
Then there is the Hoosier's home/away performance disparity. If you remember last year, Kentucky was pretty awful away from home, but went on a run in the late season. The only difference between 2012 IU and 2011 UK is a hiccup in the Big Ten Tournament where the Hoosiers lost to the Wisconsin Badgers. 2011 Kentucky went on a run that included knocking off #1 seed Ohio St. Buckeyes as 4 seed. Kentucky is a 1, Indiana is a 4, and the game is on a neutral court where IU has been very good this year.
Finally, there is the notion that IU played over their heads against Kentucky. Nothing could be further from the truth. In that game in Bloomington, neither team played well. Both had offensive efficiencies far below their season averages, and in most ways, it was an error-filled defensive struggle with both teams having problems offensively, and plagued by turnovers, over 25% for both teams.
The conclusion we should probably draw is that none of these factors matter. Kentucky, as was true in December, has superior talent at every position, including PF/C. But the Hoosiers are a very cohesive team, and like Kentucky last year, can really shoot from the perimeter. So can UK, but IU is a bit more consistent than Kentucky from the arc, probably owing to the fact that they depend on 3-point shooting for 30% of their points, while Kentucky only gets 22% of their points from there.
So now that I've told you why you should not be confident about the Indiana-Kentucky game, we'll take a look at the reasons why you should be -- in the next article of this series.