And the wood stove smokes and glows
As the fire grows we can warm our souls
Makin' rainbows in the coals
And well talk of trails we've walked up
Far above the timberline
There are nights I only feel right
With Carolina in the pines
--Michael Martin Murphy, Carolina in the Pines
Tomorrow, the Mountaineers from Appalachian State University come down from their high mountain passes in Boone, North Carolina for a tilt with the Kentucky Wildcats.
The Mountaineers are most recently famous for knocking off the mighty Michigan Wolverines in The Big House in Football back in 2007. But the Mountaineers have a basketball team, as well. This ASU team is a very high-possession team, averaging almost 80 possessions per 40 minutes. The 4-3 Mountaineers are also a good rebounding team, averaging nearly 43 rebounds per game, 12th in the nation, and has out-rebounded all its opponents by an average of almost 8 per game. Appy State also has a very good individual player, Ike Butts, who has six double-doubles in seven games this season.
As usual, we'll be taking a look at both teams from a statistical point of view (all statistics courtesy of Statsheet.com):
Player statistics and evaluations:
|Kentucky Player Stats|
Actually, I have no idea who Gillispie will start. It could be Galloway again. We'll all just have to wait and see.
Inch for inch and pound for pound, the Mountaineers match up only fair against the Wildcats. ASU has a very large and strong center surrounded by relatively small players, having essentially a 3-guard system and starting a small power forward.
Due to their lack of interior size, the Mountaineers will be forced to leave either Stevenson, Harrellson or Patterson matched up with a much smaller man. No doubt they will put Butts on Patterson and a smaller man on Stevenson and Harrellson, which should give UK lots of high-low opportunities with Patterson up top.
The Mountaineers will play an in-your-face man-to-man, and may press quite a bit. This will likely force either a Galloway start or an early exit for Michael Porter in order for him to avoid having to bring the ball up against pressure, at which he is very vulnerable. But it does give UK a chance to keep the tempo high, and they have done very well in high possession games since the first loss to VMI.
UK is also bigger in the backcourt, which is going to be true most of the time this year. The ASU guards are likely to be very quick and active, but that is a good thing for UK, and will force them to pay attention.
As far as ASU is concerned, they will want to get it in to Butts to try to get Patterson or Stevenson in trouble, but the fact of the matter is, our large guards are going to make that entry very tough for ASU. Also, UK's big men are very mobile, and they are gong to make Butts work hard for inside position.
In the end, no matter what the visitors try, they are going to be at a disadvantage both in terms of size and talent.
|Wins & Losses|
|Blowout (> 19)||4-0||(100.0%)||0-0||(0.0%)|
|Close (< 6)||1-0||(100.0%)||3-0||(100.0%)|
|Pts Per Game||78.1||80.6|
|3pt FG Pct||30.7||34.6|
|Reb Per Game||41.7||46.9|
|Off Rebs Per Game||10.4||14.7|
|Def Rebs Per Game||29.0||28.0|
|Assists, Steals, & Blocks|
|Assists Per Game||16.9||13.3|
|Steals Per Game||7.2||6.1|
|Blocks Per Game||7.9||3.1|
|Turnovers & Fouls|
|TO Per Game||20.5||19.9|
|Fouls Per Game||19.2||21.9|
As you can see, UK is the better shooting team, and even arguably a better defensive team. However, the Mountaineers are a significantly better rebounding team, and as weak as UK has been on the offensive glass this year, that presents a difficult problem.
If UK can keep the Mountaineers to a draw on the offensive boards, it looks like UK is by far the most offensively and defensively efficient team between these two.
This is yet another straightforward game for the Wildcats, and another opportunity to prove how far they have come in practice. Despite the fact that ASU is by no means athletically challenged, they certainly have far less skill, top to bottom, than do the Wildcats.
I'll be looking for good fundamentals from the Wildcats in this game -- rebounding, ball handling, shot blocking and solid offensive execution. It should be very difficult for ASU to dare to dream about coming into
Rupp Arena Freedom Hall and winning a game, but of course, Gardener Webb and VMI have proved there is less to fear in mighty Rupp Arena than at times past, and UK lost to UAB in Louisville last year.
What this game calls for is simple basketball -- get the ball into the post and make ourself available for kick-outs. Play good, fundamental basketball and this game should be an fairly straightforward one for Kentucky.