Despite all of the criticism surrounding Tubby Smith this season, he has them with a chance at the Sweet 16. I know what the standards are in Lexington, but even if they lose to a #1 seed in the second round for the second year in a row I don't see him losing his job. He has a good, veteran-heavy team this year highlighted by junior big man Randolph Morris and junior guards Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley.
Who We Need to Shut Down
Kentucky's offense revolves around their 7-foot center. After declaring for the NBA Draft following his freshman season, he dropped out of the running and returned to school where he still is 2 years later. If he has a bad day, Kentucky loses. It's as simple as that. The biggest question in tomorrow afternoon's game is how well we can shut down Morris with Julian Wright, Darnell Jackson, Darrell Arthur and Sasha Kaun. I think Sasha will play more than usual and see the brunt of the assignment against Morris, but look for Darrell Arthur to play a lot of D on Morris as he could potentially be quick enough to give #33 fits all day long.
Who We Need to Get Going
As good as Kentucky's defense is, they can't handle an X-Factor like Julian Wright. They proved that they can shut down some 3-point shooting guards in beating #9 seed Villanova and Scottie Reynolds, but Curtis Sumpter had a pretty good game against them and Wright is exponetially more athletically gifted than Sumpter. If Julian goes off we have a great chance at winning, otherwise we could be in for a long afternoon/dusk/night.
Three Keys to the Game
1) One Game at a Time
To anyone who watched basketball today (who didn't?) you know that EVERY SINGLE GAME was close and down-to-the-wire. There are never easy 2nd round games anymore and from here on out, you have to bring your 'A' game or go home. We need to bring it tomorrow and then worry about Va Tech or Southern Illinois and not take the 'Cats for granted. I know that these keys usually involve more mental than physical parts of the game but basketball is such a mental game that often the mental aspects outweigh the physical aspects in deciding the winner and loser.
2) Shut Down 'Big Randy'
Big Randy (or BR from now on) is the center of Kentucky's offense. We shut him down, we win. Clear as that. Self will have some clever defense set to slow him down, but it will be up to the players (namely Sasha Kaun and Darrell Arthur) to play great man-to-man defense and shut him down.
3) Make Your 3's
Kentucky's defense is very good and when you play very good defense you can't afford to miss open shots. We have been doing a good job recently of knocking down open shots and that can't change tomorrow. Julian Wright will have a quick start and then Tubby will focus in on him. After they collapse their defense on Julian and Darrell and the big boys we need to be able to kick it back out and have Super, RR, SC and Brandon knock down open shots.
We come out to play early with Julian getting off to a hot start. They slowly catch up and by halftime it is tied (or close to it). The second half stays close in a low-scoring affair but in the last 5 minutes we pull away virtue of some open 3 pointers knocked in by Super and Brandon.
Kansas 62 Kentucky 54