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Virginia Military Institute @ Kentucky: Open Game Thread

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This is the official open game thread for the VMI @ UK game coming up tonight at 7:00 pm EST in Rupp Arena.

Well ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, here it is -- the first real, honest-to-God UK basketball game of the 2008-09 season. I know all Wildcat fans have been anxiously awaiting the moment when the season officially starts, and this year it starts with a bang. First, we play the #1 scoring team in the nation the last couple of years, and four days later, we invade Tobacco Road to play the mighty North Carolina Tarheels at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill. Excitement? We gotcha some.

But first, we have to deal with the Keydets of VMI. For an fairly exhaustive preview of the two teams, you can check my pre-game analysis a couple of posts down. This will be a fast-paced game with lots of running and shooting. What I will be looking for is how well the Wildcats defend, and how intense and "up" they are for this game.

The first exhibition against the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the 'Cats were very focused and intense. In the second game against Ouachita Baptist, not so much. This one counts, so I am looking for high intensity from start to finish.

Five things the Wildcats can do to make this game easy:

  1. Get the ball into the low post early and often -- the VMI Keydets cannot match up whatsoever with UK's inside players, so double teams will have to come. That will open up cuts to the basket, ball reversal and easy shots.
  2. Rebound the basketball -- The Keydets have been a really good offensive rebounding team, so Kentucky must defend the defensive glass.
  3. Limit turnovers -- I know this is broken record material, but until UK proves they can handle the ball, it will be in every single list. Turnovers can be the difference between an easy game and a nailbiter.
  4. Defensive intensity -- UK is bigger, stronger and more athletic than VMI. The very best place for that to make an impact is on the defensive end.
  5. Limit fouls -- UK has had a history of fouls under Gillispie, and as Traitor Rick used to say, "Fouls negate hustle."

Five things that the Wildcats can do to give the Keydets hope:

  1. Take bad shots -- Jodie Meeks is a bit susceptible to this, and if UK comes in cocky, they might start jacking up, "We're so much better than you" shots. Not wise.
  2. Come out flat on defense -- Nothing gives a team more hope than when they score on you and get an early lead. A lack of defensive intensity by the 'Cats could make this interesting.
  3. Playing careless -- The Keydets will take a lot of threes, which means the guards need to get in position for the long rebound. That calls for a quick transition from defense, and that won't happen if UK is always running at shooters due to good ball reversal. UK must disrupt the passing lanes and force shots where they have good defensive position.
  4. Fouls -- you never know when a team is going to make all their free throws, and when that happens, it can really change the game.
  5. Turnovers -- I don't think I need to explain this.

There we go. Enjoy the game, and comment away. I am opening the thread about 30 minutes before the game for some pre-game chatter.

Go 'Cats!