Welcome, Wildcats fans, to the seventh game of the 2014-15 basketball season. With football now mostly behind us and nothing but basketball lying ahead, we get to in in earnest today by welcoming the Providence Friars to storied Rupp Arena, where eight NCAA Tournament championship banners bear silent witness to over a century of the best college basketball in America.
Providence arrives in Lexington undefeated, just like Kentucky, and has a great mix of talented youth and grizzled experience on this season’s team. They will be a tough test, and any thought the Wildcats have of walking over them should be suppressed — they are most certainly a good team with plenty of weapons.
Essentials for victory
Make perimeter shots — This will be a big key for Kentucky all season. Many, perhaps even most teams will be playing zone or some kind of sagging man-to-man to prevent a lot of post-ups near the basket and to force UK’s big men to give up the ball. Outside shooting makes that strategy untenable, and failed outside shooting makes it very useful.
Offensive rebound — Providence is not a great offensive rebounding team, but they are very, very good. UK needs to use their length.
Take care of the ball — I know this is redundant, but turnovers really irk me. This Kentucky team has plenty of experienced ballhandling, and should not turn it over a lot. Providence forces 11.8% turnovers, just as high a percentage as Kentucky, so taking care of the ball in this game is paramount.
Run as much as possible — Providence is not a deep team, and if UK can force the pace, it will be tough for them to keep up.
Be patient on the wing entry — Kentucky has been way too impatient on wing entry passes for my taste. Give the post time to get good position, then throw a safe pass. We’ve seen too many wing entries stolen or poked loose due to impatience.
Set good screens — Screen and roll is going to be a big part of UK’s offense this year, and the last couple of games, the screens have been weaker than we need to see. Set good screens and immediately roll to the basket.
Kentucky has been beating up on teams with their size and talent. This is more of a fair fight than any of their recent games, so it’s the kind of test we need to see UK up to the task. Sharper execution is important to see somewhere along the line, and sooner is always better than late.