After a steady diet of Thanksgiving cupcakes, the season gets real for the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team.
They will face one of their more interesting opponents of the season in the 9-1 Virginia Tech Hokies. The Hokies will come into Rupp Arena with a big grudge on their shoulders and the chance to knock off a big name opponent to prove they are for real.
Even at 9-1, the Hokies are somewhat unproven and disrespected. They come into this game with an RPI of around 109. The Hokies have played just one team in the top 135 (per Jerry Palm) and they blew out the Washington Huskies 103-79. Their only loss was to #181 St Louis and the Hokies have feasted on teams outside of the top 200, going 6-0.
I am a big fan of Hokie coach Buzz Williams and he is on my short list of coaches to replace John Calipari when the inevitable eventually comes. I love the passion that he displays and when watching his team, it's obvious that his teams will charge through a brick wall for him.
This is a very good shooting team, that if they are on, can give the Wildcats trouble. Let's meet the Hokies.
#5 - G JUSTIN ROBINSON - JR 6'2, 190
9.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 2.4 APG
#10 - G JUSTIN BIBBS - SR 6'5, 220
17.5 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.3 APG
#13 - G AHMED HILL - JR 6'5, 205
16.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.3 APG
#4 - G NICKEIL ALEXANDER - WASHINGTON - FR 6'5, 210
14.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.2 APG
#24 - F KERRY BLACKSHEAR - JR 6'10, 260
13.0 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.6 APG
#15 - F CHRIS CLARKE - JR 6'6, 210
9.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 3.5 APG
#14 - F PJ HORNE - FR 6'5, 215
6.5 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.2 APG
#3 - G WABISSA BEDE - FR 6'1, 195
4.7 PPG, 1.3 RPG, 1.1 APG
#1 - G TYRIE JACKSON - SO 6'1, 205
4.5 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 0,9 APG
#11 - G DEVIN WILSON - SR 6'4, 195
3.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.4 APG
This is a dangerous scoring team and the whole starting lineup averages in double digits. They can all hit three-pointers as well and are a very well coached and experienced team.
Ahmed Hill hits a cool 50% of his three-pointers and he leads the team with 30 shots made. Nickeil Alexander-Walker connects at a 47.7% clip and Justin Bibbs at a 47.6 mark. Justin Robinson hits 45.8% and Chris Clark knocks down half his treys off the bench.
Overall, the Hokies hit 46.8% overall and average 10.3 treys a game.
Kerry Blackshear Jr is the only starter that does not take a lot of threes, but he is an effective scorer inside the paint and has a nice mid-range jumper. He hits 66.1% of his shots. He is not the only Hoke that shoots over 60% or close to it.
P.J Horne is in the same mold and hits 65% overall and Justin Bibb at 60%. Clark comes off the bench and hits 59.6%. Overall, the Hokies shoot 55.3%.
This is a team that takes pretty good care of the ball and comes into the game with a team A/TO ratio of 1.5. Justin Robinson has a very impressive 2.52 A/TO and is an experienced floor leader. He is one of the better defenders with 19 steals as well. The bench is solid as well as Devin Wilson has a 3.0 A/TO ratio and Chris Clarke has an A/TO of 1.59.
This is not a team with a lot of height but they are a scrappy rebounding team and have outrebounded their opponents by 5.3 boards a game. Granted none of the teams the Hokies have faced have close to the length that Kentucky has, but this is a team that will hustle and can beat you to the boards. Blackshear and Clarke are by far the best rebounders and Blackshear also averages 1.2 blocks a game.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN
This will be an interesting game for the Wildcats as this is a team that can get hot and knock Kentucky off. They are very well coached, have a good basketball IQ and will not get rattled in Rupp Arena.
The big advantage that Kentucky has is their length and athleticism and that should give the Hokies trouble all day. Kentucky has become a pretty solid defensive team and their length should disrupt the long-range bombs that the Hokies will be throwing.
Expect an entertaining game as both teams can score and don't be shocked if the Hokies lead for a portion of the game.
In the end, the length and athleticism of Kentucky will be too much. It will be a good test for the Wildcats but look for an 83-70 win.