We had a discussion with SB Nation’s Buffalo Bull Run about the upcoming second-round matchup for Kentucky as they face the Bulls.
Here’s how it went:
1) Nick Perkins, the 6th man, could potentially be a matchup nightmare for Kentucky. He’s a 6’8’ 250 lb junior who can hit the three. Is he the player the Cats should worry about, or is there someone else?
Perkins is our sixth man in terms of lineup, but in reality, he will probably put in more minutes than Ikenna Smart who usually starts. Coach Oats moved him to the bench a while back and he’s thrived in that role for Buffalo.
Perkins is a great big man, my only concern in the last game was that 6-8 wasn’t “big enough” compared to Arizona’s bigs. But Perk showed what makes him so dangerous. He is as strong as most seven footers but he also has a very versatile game including some soft mid range shots and a respectable 33% shooting behind the arch.
But Buffalo’s whole deal is that there is not one Bull who you can calk up as “the player you should worry about”. UB has four or five guys who can take over on the offensive side of things, we want you to focus on one rather than our entire team. If you get caught up in “Stopping Perkins” or “Shutting down CJ Massinburg” then you leave guys like Wes Clark or Jeremy Harris with more room, and any one of them can put a dagger in you.
And one name you won’t hear a lot if Davonta Jordan. His stat lines won’t jump off the page at you but he is one of the best defending guards I have ever seen. Certainly, the best the Bulls have ever had.
2) What has been the mindset all year for this team? I saw the “chip on the shoulder” idea being tossed around, but has this team always believed they can make a run?
Well I don’t think “chip on the shoulder” sums up this team on the year. For most of the year we’ve been the team with a target on our back. I think the Bulls were upset that they got seeded so low, but some of the players expressed how nice is was to “be the ones hunting” for a change.
Nate Oats preaches hard work and hustle. The Bulls can be up 20 and if he sees a player slow to get back on defense, or slow to push the ball up he will give them an ear full. At the end of every game a UB player gets the blue hardhat in the locker room, and it’s given based on a hustle play.
That hustle and a very fast pace offense is the mindset. UB wants to run you around until you tire out, as you saw Arizona lose their legs midway through the second half.
3) What are the 3 keys to victory for Kentucky?
-Get UB into foul trouble: The Bulls are deep so they don’t often have a player foul out but in all three of our conference losses this year the Bulls put their opponents into the bonus with more than 10 minutes left in the second half.
-Pressure the perimeter: UB does have the tools to get a lot of points down low, Wes Clark has a nice burst off the dribble, but the Bulls would prefer to rain threes, as Arizona saw.
-Score a lot of points. UB has not been held under 60 points all season, and more often they scored more than 70. They dropped 67 on Cincinnati, 73 on Texas A&M, and 74 on Syracuse. I’m not syaing it’s impossible to hold UB under 60 but I will say that if Kentucky scores in the low 60’s UB could be moving to the Sweet 16.
4) If you were on the coaching staff, which player for Kentucky are you most worried about?
I’m going to go with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. He does a great job distributing the ball and that may be UB’s key to slowing down your offense.
5) Based on the styles of both teams, who do you believe has the advantage in this game?
I think Kentucky presents Buffalo with a much more difficult challenge than Arizona does. They play fast enough to cause the Bulls to take fouls. Foul trouble is my big worry. If the Bulls are dropping 3’s at a near 50% rate I don’t see them losing, but Kentucky’s perimeter defense is good and they are athletic.
Honestly this is a hard one to see a big structural advantage for either team. I think your talent is a bit deeper than ours but not incredabally so.
Let’s say that maybe UB’s experience might give them a slight advantage.