Tonight is one of the most highly anticipated games of the year in NCAA basketball, the Kentucky Wildcats versus the Texas Longhorns. These two teams have it all — size, strength, NBA-level talent and skill galore. Both are currently undefeated and ranked in the top five of the AP poll. This is a battle of heavyweights, literally, and is the talk of college basketball for at least the last two days.
There are lots of people predicting a comfortable Kentucky win and few predicting a Texas upset, but I’ll tell you right now that Kentucky is due to throw in a clunker. It may not come here, but it will come eventually, and we really don’t know when. Texas is good enough to beat Kentucky even without their star point guard, and they are significantly more experienced.
Having said that, their loss of Isaiah Taylor really matters. He’s the press-breaker, the guard that’s too quick for our backcourt in every way. He is a major missing piece of the Longhorn’s puzzle. There is no doubt that will help Kentucky’s cause.
But UK cannot take this team for granted in any way, and I’m confident they won’t.
Essentials for victory
Offensive rebounding — This will be by far the biggest test for the Wildcats on the glass this season. We all know Texas is big and strong. What we’re going to find out is who wants it more.
Make threes — Kentucky will be inefficient if they don’t take and make threes. That plays right into Texas’ hands. If Kentucky can shoot 35% from the arc tonight, it will be very, very hard for them to lose. Less than that and it could be a tough fight.
Defend the arc — Texas is merely an average 3-point shooting teams, but average shooting teams can get hot on the road against a foe who really motivates them, and if beating Kentucky in Rupp Arena doesn’t motivate you as a college basketball player, you should be doing something else.
Attack Texas off the dribble — Kentucky needs to get to the line a lot in this game, because some of their usual magic of getting dunks inside just isn’t going to happen often enough. Once they get there, they must make them.
Force the tempo — Texas will wilt under a high tempo. The Wildcats must make the Texas big men run, and exert themselves as much as possible.
This game is really going to show us where we stand. If Kentucky is able to win this game, I’ll be feeling very good about the rest of our non-conference schedule. Nobody else has the kind of size and talent that Texas does, not even Louisville or North Carolina. The both present their own types of challenges, but nobody will challenge us physically like the Longhorns.