Welcome to the A Sea of Blue Live Game Thread for the Kentucky Wildcats vs. the UCLA Bruins. This is a battle of NCAA Tournament giants, and between them the Bruins and the Wildcats have amassed 19 NCAA titles, although it has been almost 20 years since the last time the Bruins ascended to the pinnacle of college basketball.
This is a game in which the two contestants are looking at two different seasons. The Wildcats are vying to go into the SEC season undefeated for the second time in six seasons. The Bruins need a marquee win after having missed opportunities against the Gonzaga Bulldogs and North Carolina Tar Heels, who won the first game in this event earlier today.
Speaking of this event, it is known as the "CBS Sports Classic" and looks to place basketball teams of current or historical significance similar to other "classics" we have seen around the country in a neutral court setting.
Essentials for victory
Defend the three — Kentucky must guard the arc in this game. UCLA is a very dangerous 3-point shooting team with a number of players who can make the shot, and the kind of size inside it takes to support that kind of attack.
Get the Bruin bigs in foul trouble — UCLA does not have a deep or experienced bench, and if Kentucky can get deep into it, the odds of the Bruins coming out victors shrink significantly.
Avoid turnovers — Kentucky is not the most offensively efficient team in the country at times, and turnovers really affect that.
Get defensive rebounds — Kentucky has been dominant on the offensive glass, but has only been above average with defensive rebounding. John Calipari pointed this out the other day, and I expect to see some improvement in that area.
Keep UCLA out of transition — The Bruins are a dangerous transition team, and Kentucky is not the best in transition defense. It will be a risk for UCLA to play up-tempo all game because of Kentucky’s depth, but it is a necessary risk.
Play focused basketball — Kentucky has drifted from time to time this season, as young teams will. The Wildcats must pay attention to blockout assignments, stay in front of their men, and play good, clean basketball.
This is a game Kentucky should win, but UCLA is a dangerous opponent that cannot be taken for granted. They have had trouble with high-quality teams this season, but they are also due for a good game against a major foe. The Bruins Nation fans may not love Steve Alford, but he is a quality coach who will have a plan for this game. It’s easy for the Big Blue Nation to be sanguine about this game, but UCLA is a quality foe who is capable of pulling the upset.