USA TODAY Sports
Kentucky travels to the tiny gym of Robert Morris for their first round NIT game.
Well, here we are, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation – facing our first-round opponent in the 2013 NIT Tournament. It’s not at all where we wanted to be, but we need to believe that this team will look at this as an opportunity to redeem themselves.
What I really don’t know is how they feel, where their heads are at, and least of all, what we can expect from them tonight. They are young guys, so you know they are disappointed not to be playing in the Big Dance, and I doubt that any one of them would have even considered the possibility of playing for their season in a 3,500-seat hostile gym in March. The idea would have seemed absurd.
This is, in fact, the theater of the absurd, not meaning any disrespect to Robert Morris. The entire idea of facing elimination from the post-season in front of such a tiny crowd seems unimaginable, even crazy. If Kentucky has played in front of a crowd this small at any time, I can’t remember when. But the TV audience will likely dwarf that of the First Four games tonight, and quite possibly most of the NCAA first round games.
Now, to the work in front of us, which is more daunting than we would like to admit. To win tonight, Kentucky must:
Respect this opponent. They are absolutely dangerous and fully capable of defeating the Wildcats, especially in front of home fans.
Rebound the basketball better than they have all year. If they don’t, I believe Robert Morris will prevail.
Stay at home on the 3-point shooters of the Colonials. UK isn’t going to stop them from hitting threes, but they need to make them take tough shots if possible.
Get in transition as often as possible. Robert Morris, for some reason, isn’t that great in defensive transition.
Make free throws. The Colonials are going to put UK on the line. If they can make a decent (68%+) percentage, I like the Wildcats’ chances.
Make threes. The Colonials are likely to double-team the post, giving shooters open looks. UK must make them.
I am nervous about this game. Kentucky has shown themselves capable of absolutely anything, including losing to a team like this, who is very good and does the things that has given Kentucky fits all year.
Let’s go get this thing. Go, ’Cats!