I just love this picture. Mainly because I know that Hulls made the shot. If the dude gets to the free throw line it's an easy 2 points. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Yesterday I covered what would go wrong in the event of Indiana falling to Kentucky on Saturday. Today I am going to cover the four factors that will go right if IU is going to pull this game out and upset the top rated Wildcats. These factors are must haves for the Hoosiers to win. Yesterday’s factors were weren’t mandatory to pull off a win, but these following four are. Without these four factors Indiana doesn’t stand a chance.
Play Through Zeller: If Indiana is to win it will likely be on the back of great offensive play by Cody Zeller. Zeller has the advantage over Kentucky big man Anthony Davis at this point in the season. But AJ, you say, Davis was the top rated freshman coming into this season by recruiting experts! I won’t try and argue that, it is true that Davis has the higher ceiling and potential in the long run, but Zeller is infinitely more polished as a center right now.
Zeller grew up playing the post and even I underestimated his abilities coming into the season. In turn, Anthony Davis has been a post player for all of about 2 years. He’s spent the majority of his career as a guard and at the NBA level will not be a big man. In turn, Davis is a post player like Kevin Durant is a post player. Freak athleticism and great outside-in game make him a potential superstar at the next level, but he’ll be asked to play the post on Saturday and most of this season. Zeller will have the experience and skill advantage as a post player come Saturday, so Indiana must expose that strength.
Cody’s brother Tyler Zeller showed that a bigger physical post man can give Davis fits. Cody is going to have to one up his brother and take care of the ball while he has possession in the post as well. If the ball can get moved through Zeller then his post passing will expose the perimeter for the sharp shooters. The ball must go through Zeller and he has to win his matchup against Davis.
Make it Rain: Three point shooting will likely decide the game. North Carolina lost their best player in Harrison Barnes for a majority of the game yet still led at half time and kept the game very tight. How? They shot well from the perimeter. Why did they eventually fall? They went cold from the perimeter. The must have for the Hoosiers is to keep up their strong shooting they’ve showed all season.
Kentucky is somewhat susceptible to quick swings in the offense and struggle to close out on the perimeter in the shift. This is a reiteration of playing through Zeller. Getting the ball into the post and then getting quick kicks back outside will give Indiana plenty of wide open opportunities to drop daggers. They have to do that. Three pointers is what will keep the building rocking and momentum on the Hoosiers side. Indiana absolutely must show up with its sniper scopes equipped. Kentucky will not be susceptible to anything in between. It either needs to be layups or bombs from downtown.
Wictor Sheeladipo: Kentucky vs. Indiana will likely be one of the best battles of the sixth man that we could see all year. Darius Miller is probably the number 2 scoring option on any other big contender in college basketball. He can certainly fill the bucket up and just because he isn’t a starter doesn’t mean he isn’t a major contributor. The same goes for Will Sheehey. In fact, through eight games, Sheehey has been the second most used player on the Hoosiers team behind his fellow sophomore and recruiting class accomplice Victor Oladipo. Sheehey has shown the ability to take over a game while providing some lock down perimeter defense. The exact same goes for Oladipo. Both players along with Zeller are the three guys that are most capable of physically matching up with Kentucky. A big game from all three will be in high demand if the Hoosiers want to pull this one off. The cited lack of physical capabilities from Hulls, Jones and Moore from yesterday, can be covered up with big games from Sheehey and Oladipo. A big game from these two guys on the defensive end, will lead to a ton of points on the offensive end and help keep the appropriate high tempo game that Indiana thrives in.
Box Out, Damn It: NC State feasted on the Hoosiers in the paint during the first half of last Wednesday’s game. Why? No one could be bothered by getting physical on the defensive end and boxing out. What turned the tide in the game in the second half? Every player was racing to get a butt into someone when the shot went up. They still struggled at times against the 7 post players on NC State’s roster (read when the post consisted of Elston and Pritchard) but were holding their own for the most part. Fortunately for Indiana, Kentucky lacks the Patrick Patterson type player that they’ve had in the past. There is no power rebounder on the Wildcats squad. Certainly there are some good rebounders but none of them are the mountainous physical force that Patterson and Josh Harrellson have been for them in the past. If Indiana can keep the rebounding ratio near 1:1 then they’ll have a chance in the final minutes. Second chance points have been the Achilles heel to date for the Hoosiers and that has to change starting Saturday.
In the end, Indiana is the underdog in this game but I think home court advantage could be key. The young Wildcats have yet to enter into the type of hostile environment that Bloomington will be on Saturday. They’ll have to get out to a quick start or The Hall will be rocking all afternoon. In order to take some responsibility I’ll go ahead and put my prediction out there. Indiana will hang around and even give an appearance of taking this game before eventually falling to the Wildcats in the fading moments of the game. The Hoosiers lose in a close that isn’t reflected in the final score. Indiana in an attempt to foul their way back into the game will lose by 7, 75-68.
Keys to the game shifted slightly from yesterday after some more discussion with Kentucky fans and a closer review of the North Carolina game. I understand that some of what is written today is hypocritical of what was posted yesterday. What are we if not constantly learning?
For more information on Kentucky basketball check our SB Nation sister site, A Sea Of Blue.