Tonight at 7:00 PM, the Kentucky Wildcats take on the LSU Tigers for the third time this season. The Tigers earned the right to face the Wildcats by dispatching the Alabama Crimson Tide last night 68-56. As per normal, we will incorporate our earlier previews into this one below:
There is really not that much to say that hasn't been said, especially considering these two teams are now intimately familiar with each other, having played 2.125 games so far this season. We know that LSU will go to Johnny O`Bryant III early and often. We know that Jordan Mickey will block shots, rebound, and run the floor. We know that Andre Stringer and Anthony Hickey will shoot the ball. These are the things we know well.
What is worrisome for Kentucky is how well the Tigers shot the ball from the outside against the Crimson Tide. It's tough enough to guard LSU when they have to depend on their big people to score, but when they make the three, they are really tough. The key for Kentucky will be Shavon Coleman, who tore the Tide up last night making 5-9 from outside the arc. If he shoots the ball like that versus the Wildcats, it's going to be a mighty rough ride.
Fortunately for Kentucky, Coleman is, at best, a streaky shooter, and even though he can still really hurt you with slashes to the basket, he's much more dangerous when he can make shots from the outside, forcing teams to guard him closer.
O`Bryant has been hot and cold over the last few games. He tends to go that way, and he was hot against Alabama making 71% of his shots, although he didn't really need to make many because of LSU's great shooting from the perimeter. He's still the main guy that Kentucky is probably going to have to double-team, and when they do, they're going to have to be careful to limit his passing lanes by coming hard. Soft double-teams are probably going to lead to open 3-point looks.
I have no idea what to expect from Kentucky, and no idea what the "tweak" will turn out to be, or whether it will even work against LSU. The way to beat LSU, of course, is to take care of the basketball, dominate the offensive glass (LSU isn't a great offensive rebounding team despite their size), and take advantage of the small guards by taking them inside or shooting over them.
The big key for Kentucky in this game is offense. Honestly, I have given up on Kentucky being a good defensive team this year, especially when it comes to guarding small guards like Stringer and Hickey. So if UK can't be great on defense, they have to be great on offense and merely competent on defense.
Unfortunately, we have seen precious little good offense out of Kentucky lately, but if they are going to win this game and go anywhere but back to Wildcat Coal Lodge in the NCAA Tournament, they absolutely must shoot well, as well as take care of the basketball.
When Kentucky has turned the ball over 20% of possessions or more, they are 7-6. When they turn the ball over less than 20% of the time, they are 15-3. Even if you are missing layups, preventing the other team from getting extra possessions can sometimes allow you to win the game anyway.
Tonight, for Kentucky, it's all about offense and turnovers. If the Widlcats are sharp offensively and stingy with the ball, I think they are likely to win. If not, it could be a long game.