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Vanderbilt at Kentucky -- Open Game Thread

This is the official Open Game Thread for Vanderbilt at Kentucky.  For those of you who can't get the game on TV, here are some links:

Here we are again, facing a team that looks to be significantly superior to the Cats in every respect but defense.  This is a new experience for the Big Blue Nation, and not a welcome one.  We are used to coming into these games favored, but we will not be the favorite today, and that looks to be the case more often than not the rest of the way, unless we perform a significant turnaround in performance.

The Commodores come in on a 16-game winning streak, with is not necessarily good for them.  They have had a couple of close calls lately, and look ripe for a defeat.  Normally, basketball observers would think that this is a bad spot for the Commodores, but this year is different.  Owing to a continual string of nagging injuries to several of Kentucky's best players, this looks like a much tougher spot for the Cats than the 'Dores.

We still don't know if Jodie Meeks will be playing, my assumption is that this is a game time decision.  It looks like Crawford and Jasper will be able to go, although their injuries could limit both their time on the floor and their effectiveness.  Patrick Patterson and A.J. Ogilvy look like the leading candidates for SEC freshman of the year, and this will be an interesting subplot for both young men.  The one who comes out on top of the inevitable matchup should wind up with the edge in that department.

But on the bright side, the Cats are due for a good game, and the Commodores, although tough offensively, will likely have difficulty with Kentucky on the defensive end.  If we have improved as much as Gillispie seems to imply in his recent interviews, there is some reason for optimism, and a victory against the ranked and undefeated Commodores would go a long way toward making up for losses to Gardner-Webb and San Diego.  Not only that, starting out he SEC season in such a positive way would give a much-needed shot in the arm to the Cats, something they badly need at this juncture in the season.

Keys to the game:

  1. Ballhandling -- This is a fixture here.  If we win the turnover battle, our odds improve significantly.
  2. Defense -- Winning this game will require the best defensive effort the Cats have given so far.
  3. 3-point shooting -- We must hold the 'Dores under 40% from the arc to have any chance.
  4. Pace -- We need to keep the pace under control.  Allowing the Commodores a wide open, high-possession game is a sure way to defeat.
  5. Patterson vs. Ogilvy -- The biggest matchup of Patterson's young career, and we have not won a game in which Patterson has not been a significant contributor.

Time to get ready.  I will not be liveblogging this game.  I'll be in and out from time to time, so be sure to post comments if you have them.