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Kentucky Wildcats Morning Quickies: Tennessee Rivalry Edition

Tonight’s Kentucky vs Tennessee game might be as big as WVU in Morgantown for the Cats’ NCAA future.

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COLLEGE BASKETBALL: JAN 13 Kentucky at Vanderbilt Photo by Steve Roberts/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, and welcome to the Tuesday Morning Quickies.

As we chug along in the dog days of the college basketball season, I can’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu about the Wildcats. It seems to me that 2014 has called and wants their Wildcats back. I wish I had the confidence that the ultimate outcome of the season would be similar, but alas.

Still, this is a talented, if flawed Kentucky basketball team. They have moments where they look as good as everyone thought they’d be early in the year, and then they do things like the game in Missouri, possibly the most revolting basketball game I’ve seen in a while, at least offensively.

But that’s water under the bridge. Tennessee comes in to Rupp Arena tonight on a five-game winning streak, and even though they haven’t been playing the toughest competition in that stretch, they did defeat South Carolina in Columbia — something the Wildcats couldn’t do.

This Volunteers team knows how to win, and Kentucky is still groping about as if the game of basketball were the dark tunnel of Cirith Ungol where Shelob, daughter of Ungoliant the Gloomweaver awaits, hungry.

Kentucky will need more than the Light of Eärendil to stave off the hungry Vols, and this game may well be as important in a confidence-building sense as the dramatic Kentucky victory over West Virginia in Morgantown.

Quick overview of Kentucky vs. Tennessee

Kentucky’s offense has been its bugaboo in the league. In SEC play, UK is barely over 1 point per possession at 1.01 p/p, while the Vols are far more efficient at 1.16 p/p. The Wildcats are better on defense, but not by enough to make up the difference.

This is the clash of the titans at the 3-point arc — UT is #2 in 3-point shooting percentage in the league, and UK is #1 in 3-point defense. Kentucky is currently shooting a pathetic 28.3% from 3 in the conference, which is a big reason why they are having such trouble with offensive efficiency.

Another problem has been passing the ball. Kentucky has been getting too many points on drives by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and not enough on ball movement and clean looks. This has got to change. UK’s assist rate is way down in SEC play.

If Kentucky can take care of the ball, guard the 3-point line, and make 70%+ of free throws, I think they’ll win this game. If they allow Tennessee to make 7 or more threes in under 20 shots from the arc, no way will UK win.

Tweet of the Morning

Now if Wenyen can only deliver against the Vols. We need him to.

Well, that’s for the year, but UT’s defense has been much worse in conference play at 104.1, 8th n the SEC. Clay should know this, and the omission of it is deceptive, though probably unintentionally.

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