First of all, settle down, this is going to be the first of a two part series breaking down the keys to the game against Kentucky on Saturday. Today we will take a look at what will go wrong in the event of a loss to the Kentucky Wildcats on Saturday. There are 4 factors that will be exposed if Indiana loses, two on offense and two on defense.
Cold Shooting: The first and most obvious thing that will tank the Hoosiers game plan this coming weekend is poor outside shooting. The North Carolina Tar Heels were the first team this season to shoot over 38% against the Wildcats. That is quite a telling statistic for John Calipari’s Cats. They do a fantastic job of getting out and pressuring the perimeter. Rarely do they allow an uncontested shot to go up from outside the arc. Unfortunately for Indiana, that has been the Hoosiers bread and butter this season. As the #5 effective field goal shooting team in the nation, having the ability to play sniper from range has shot Indiana out to its hot start. If the hot hands go cold for an extended period of time against Kentucky like they did against Butler there is little chance Indiana can stay in this one. The Hoosiers were able to out talent the Bulldogs, they won’t be able to do that with the Cats.
No Shot Fakes: Kentucky has a habit of trying to (and accomplishing) blocking anything and everything that comes into the paint. They lead the nation in block percentage, blocking shots on nearly 26% of defensive possessions. That is quite frankly astounding. Their length and athleticism has given them a capability of not only make on the ball blocks but getting a ton of weak-side blocking help. The only problem with that is that Kentucky has a terrible habit of leaving their feet a ton. It is a recipe for foul trouble and helping inferior teams stay in the ball game. If Indiana can’t expose this tendency of Kentucky players jumping at everything with some good ball fakes then I expect a lot of blocks will be turned into dunks in transition. Indiana has to be smart with the ball in the post or it will be a long afternoon.
Athletically Overmatched: For all the heart and soul that Jordan Hulls possesses on the court he still can’t make up for his lack of size and athleticism. Like many of us were forced to learn the hard way in high school, Jordan Hulls might have to learn Saturday, that sometimes you aren’t physically cut out to compete at the next level up. Daniel Moore is in the same situation and Verdell Jones at least for Saturday will also have his eggs in that basket. Plain and simple, Kentucky outmatches the Hoosiers athleticism ten to one. Indiana will have to use its brains to compensate for this physical shortcoming. The bright side is that Hulls has been overmatched plenty in previous seasons and has still managed to hold his own. Danny Moore ditto, but neither have really run into athletes such as Kentucky’s. Indiana will have to lean heavily on Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey to go toe to toe on the defensive perimeter with Kentucky’s athletes.
Turnover Margin: Kentucky’s young front court has shown at times it struggles to take care of the basketball and distribute effectively, but in the last couple of games it has turned that deficiency into a strength. The Wildcats are in the top 40 in the nation at taking care of the ball after their early hiccups. Indiana is in the top 11 in the nation at forcing the turnover. If the Hoosiers can’t expose this strength and use it to get out and run then there could be a problem. The game has to be high tempo for Indiana to have a shot at it. If the Hoosiers allow Kentucky to settle into an offense on the half court set then IU is sunk. Too many weapons are available for the Cats to not maximize their efficiency on offense and their length is capable of causing havoc on defense. In short, the Hoosiers have to pressure Kentucky’s guards and force mistakes. If the turnover margin is close to even or in Kentucky’s favor this game will be over before the under 8 timeout in the second half. The Hoosiers are runners. The only way to get out and run and keep the tempo high is to force mistakes on defense.
These are four simple factors for Indiana that cannot go wrong this Saturday. Although it isn’t certain that even if they go right it will be a win. However, if they can keep these four factors in check you could put a lot of money down that it will be at least an incredibly entertaining basketball game. If any of these four go horribly wrong it will likely be a very long afternoon for the Hoosier faithful sitting in Assembly Hall and watching across the nation.