Ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, this is what you have been waiting for. This is why you have suffered through a horrid rebuilding football season, turned out in record numbers for Big Blue Madness, and watched every second of the exhibition and last two games; to get to this game. This is the big first test, a test that Kentucky doesn't exactly need to win to pass, but could easily fail.
This is Calipari's opportunity to "fail early." But will they?
Game particulars courtesy of UKAthletics.com
- State Farm Champions Classic
- 7:30 PM Eastern time
- United Center, Chicago, Illinois
- Game notes: UK | MSU
- TV: ESPN
- Radio: UK IMG
- Live video via Watch ESPN
What needs to happen for UK to win
Defense. Kentucky must defend like they did against Northern Kentucky, only against much, much better players.
Attack. Kentucky must attack the rim and force the officials to call fouls under the new rules. If they call it like the old rules, we need to find out early.
Make free throws. Every free throw in this game will be like a precious jewel.
Make them pay if they double-team the post. They will have to, trust me, and Kentucky must move the ball to the open shooter and make open shots.
Get to the third drive on the Dribble Drive Motion. Kentucky has a tendency to get impatient, but if they'll just keep probing, they will get to the rim.
Avoid fouls. Kentucky is deep, but we can't afford to wind up with the White team in against MSU's best, it's a recipe for disaster.
Communicate. This is the hardest thing to do for a young team.
Never, ever go under screens. I promise you, they are going to, and it will be a problem if they do.
Folks, this is likely to be a very close game, possibly a one-possession game much like the victory Kentucky won over North Carolina in 2011, or the Indiana game that same season. I still think Kentucky wins this game, but Las Vegas favors the Spartans. To be fair to both me and Sin City, their usual models aren't very good at all for this game, and they're playing more by feel than usual. That gives me hope.
But hope is about all we have. If we are being honest with ourselves, this is a 50/50 game that could go either way. No matter what, it will be fun.