I guarantee you that Matthew Mitchell watched that Battle Royale between Louisville and Notre Dame. I can also guarantee you that he is thinking in the back of his head that if he and his Hoops squad are not careful, they may find themselves in the same situation as Louisville.
Kentucky travels to Nashville to take on Vanderbilt in what on paper should be an easy UK win, Vanderbilt is 15-7 overall, 5-4 in SEC play and trailing behind the upper echelon teams.The Wildcats are 20-3, 8-2 SEC. They are a physically and talent-wise much more superior team. That is where the advantages for UK will end in this game. When this team goes to Vandy, like a lot of other, more talented teams, they seem to find themselves involved in a knockdown, drag out war.
Not the kind of physical, ugly game that the UK men experienced last night with Auburn, but the kind of a game where for some odd reason, the Lady Commodores seem to negate all the other team's advantages and bring them to their level of play.
The Wildcats are 3-1 away from home this season, and find themselves in a three-way tie for third place. Georgia and South Carolina are there as well. However, the top slot is there for the taking if UK can put together another winning stretch. Tennessee sits alone atop the SEC, followed by Texas A&M. Tennessee, however, has become completely decimated by injuries and is only dressing 7-8 players at the present time. While their schedule is soft the rest of the way, they have to come to Lexington, and Kentucky has an opportunity to put Texas A&M away at College Station.
UK faces the toughest schedule in the SEC the rest of the way. After today's game at Vandy, the 'Cats face South Carolina in Lexington, then the A&M trip, followed by a little bayou tussle in Baton Rouge with LSU, and away again at Ole Miss, before coming home to Lexington to face the Lady Vols. This puts UK in complete control of their destiny. They win out, avenge all of their SEC losses for the season, and the SEC regular season crown is theirs for the taking.
First, however, is Vanderbilt. Mitchell knows what UK is facing:
They are very dynamic on offense as they always have been, and they are very tough to guard. They are always a difficult team to go against with their defense. They really guard the ball well and make you make great decisions. It will be a tough game on the road for us and we'll need to prepare well to have a chance to win."
For Kentucky to come out of Nashville with a win, the formula will be a simple one. Hang on to the ball, keep the pressure on Vandy's guards, and control the paint. All are completely within UK's abilities. If they play a complete game. The Cats are coming off a come-from-behind victory at Arkansas on Thursday. Although they trailed by 11 points in the first half, the Wildcats rallied for an impressive 80-74 win in overtime.
Vandy is going to play Kentucky tough, they always do. They will be in their faces on defense, and they always shoot well at home. The advantage of playing in Memorial Gymnasium doesn't hurt either. As disconcerting as it is for the Kentucky men in there, it is just as bad for the women. Sunday is the 45th meeting in the all-time series with Vanderbilt. The Lady Commodores lead the series 27-17 overall, including a 14-5 advantage in Nashville. However, UK has won the last four games with the Commodores, including an 80-71 win in the teams last meeting in the Music City.
My gut tells me UK wins this, but you can never tell about what is going to happen down there. A'Dia Mathies and Co. better take their "A" game if they want to get out of Nashville with their title hopes intact. Kentucky in a squeaker, 77-74.