What's left to say? The Wildcats have a golden opportunity in front of them: No. 1 opponent, rivalry motivation, packed house in front in ESPN feature game audience.
But this Kentucky team has seemed surprisingly allergic to prosperity. Perhaps that trend died with the Arkansas comeback. Or perhaps it returned with the poor defense against South Carolina down the stretch.
Regardless, those games are done, both wins, and here, before them, is the Cats' best shot at a return to the national hoops scene. Ranked highly enough to probably withstand a loss to the Number 1 team in the land, the worst case scenario is really a blowout loss, something I just have a hard time -- either in my brain or in my heart, or both -- believing wil happen.
To add to the noteables for this game, Kentucky is going after win No. 400 at Rupp Arena. In 31 years at the downtown arena, Kentucky is a staggering 399-49 (.891) overall. They are also 2-0 against #1 ranked opponents, with one of those coming against Florida in 2003 look back). Top 5 teams are 2-10 all-time when facing the Cats at Rupp.
Truz gives the details you need to know before the game starts.
What to look for:
* Pressure vs. Pressure. Who will feel the heat? Will it be the hometown Cats in front of the ever-hungry Big Blue fans? Or will it be the number 1 team in a hostile arena screaming their lungs out? A lot could depend on "What to look for #2 below.
* Start your engines. Florida's best shot for the quick knockout punch is to smack the Cats in the nose. This season, on most occasions, the Cats have stumbled out of the gate when the opponent comes right at them, putting the Blue on their heels. Similarly, a big start in front of the big crowd could be the fuel UK needs to win. Regardless, a big deficit for either team is not impossible to overcome.
* Easy being Green. The media and pundits tend to focus on Al Horford and Joakim Noah, the athletic Florida bigs. But the guys who have killed Kentucky the last four games are actually the smaller guys, especially PG Taurean Green. Control Green, and the Cats greatly improve their shot to win. Noah is outstanding, and is a superb passer, but he can't create his funky shot.
Probable starting lineupsKentucky
PG: Derrick Jasper (6'6"/213 Fr.) 4.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.3 apg
SG: Ramel Bradley (6'3"/175 Jr.) 13.6 ppg, *3.7 apg, 4.3 rpg
3G: Joe Crawford (6'5"/211 Jr.) 14.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg
C: Randolph Morris (6'11"/259 Jr.) 15.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg
SF: Bobby Perry (6'9"/215 Sr.) 6.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg
F Perry Stevenson, F Sheray Thomas, F Ramon Harris, C Lukasz Obrzut, G Jodie Meeks, G Michael Porter
PG: Taurean Green (6'0"/177 Jr.) 13.6 ppg, *3.7 apg
SG: Lee Humphrey (6'2"/192 Sr.) 10.7 ppg, *1.7 rpg
C: Al Horford (6'1"/245 Jr.) 12.8 ppg, 8.9 rpg
F: Corey Brewer (6'9"/185 Jr.) 12.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg
C: Joakim Noah (6'1"/232 Jr.) 13.0 ppg, 8.2 rpg
Walter Hodge (G), Chris Richard (F), Marreese Speights (F), Dan Werner (F), Jonathan Mitchell (F)
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