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Kentucky Wildcats vs Virginia Tech Hokies: 3 things to watch for

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Kevin Knox must rebound from his dud vs Monmouth if the Cats are to hold off Virginia Tech.

NCAA Basketball: Harvard at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

A ranked John Calipari team as a home underdog vs. an unranked team?

It’s never happened before at Rupp Arena. But this Saturday, that will all change, technically. The 8th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats are set to host the unranked Virginia Tech Hokies this Saturday afternoon at 2 P.M. EDT at Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY.

While this is indeed the youngest team in the Calipari era, as well in the country this season, it’s mind-boggling to see ESPN’s Basketball Power Index give the Hokies a 51.9% of victory.

This would basically classify a Kentucky victory as an “upset” on their home court vs. a non-ranked team, though Kentucky is ranked 8th in the country. How interesting...

Here are three things to watch for as the two teams clash this weekend.

Kevin Knox

If Knox underperforms, these Wildcats will do worse than struggle. With Duke falling to Boston College a week ago, along with Florida & Kansas dropping multiple games in a row, this is Kentucky’s chance to surge to the top of the rankings and it will all start with Knox’s play. Knox is averaging 15.2 PPG, good enough to lead the team. However, he’ll have to be aggressive against the nation’s best offense in order to give his team a chance to win.

Quade Green

I know it seems redundant, but he’s the X-factor to this team. Green’s ability to shoot a high percentage from behind the arc is key for Kentucky’s spacing in their half-court offensive sets. His ability to stretch the floor opens up the paint for towering big men such as Nick Richards, Sacha Killeya-Jones and Wenyen Gabriel.

His scoring is also something his team desires because there’s such a significant drop-off from Knox & fellow guard Hamidou Diallo in points scored this season (nearly 40, almost 5 per game). His liability on defense may give up a few points, but his value in both the half-court & transition offense is as high as anyone’s.

Total Defense

In their nine games this season, Kentucky has not allowed a team to score over 76 points. In just their third game into the season, the young & talented team held Kansas’s 16th-best offense to just 65 points.

Though the Wildcats’ schedule has been relatively soft outside of that matchup with the Jayhawks, Calipari’s teams always play up to elite competition. With UCLA & Louisville due up after Saturday’s game, rest assured Calipari will want his young squad to be able to carry over as much momentum as possible.

It all starts with this Saturday, though, as I expect Calipari to lean on the zone defense hard against the 2nd-ranked 3-point shooting team in the country. If these young Cats can stay disciplined for 40 minutes of action, I believe they’ll be able to put up enough points to claim victory.

For more updates on the Wildcats, check back at ASeaOfBlue.com and on Twitter with @ASeaOfBlue & @MonJorgan.