GAME INFO / HOW TO WATCH:
Who? Indiana Hoosiers (26-7 (15-3), #13 KenPom) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (27-8 (13-5), #6 KenPom)
When? Saturday, March 19, 5:15 PM, CBS
Where? Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa
Vegas? KENTUCKY -3
Pomeroy? KENTUCKY by 2, 43% chance of Indiana victory
These are the kind of games you should want to play.
Granted, in an ideal world, Indiana and Kentucky are meeting with at least a trip to the Final Four on the line, not just trying to get out of the first weekend. But the fact remains: to win a national championship you will have to defeat the nation's best teams (often times several of them) to cut down the nets. Indiana got their warm-up against an overmatched Chattanooga squad and the remainder of Indiana's games are likely to be against teams as good as the Hoosiers if not better.
In other words: the tourney begins now. The Big Ten Champion (a 5-seed) against the SEC Champion (a 4-seed) for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen. Let's go.
HERE WOULD YOU LIKE SOME FACTORS?
|INDIANA (#5 Adj. Offense)||59.0% (2nd)||19.7% (276th)||37.6% (15th)||33.3% (263rd)|
|KENTUCKY (#59 Adj. Defense)||44.3% (7th)||18.0% (186th)||32.2% (285th)||40.7% (265th)|
|INDIANA (#69 Adj. Defense)||49.6% (153rd)||19.0% (116th)||28.7% (123rd)||29.4% (37th)|
|KENTUCKY (#1 Adj. Offense)||53.7% (33rd)||16.0% (42nd)||37.7% (12th)||38.0% (137th)
As you can see by the Four Factor breakdown, these teams are awfully similar in results while wildly different in approach. Both enjoy (or lament) an enormous split in their offensive and defensive efficiencies, with both teams having their fair share of struggles preventing scoring but piling up points with relative ease.
Indiana, as you know, pours in the points with lights-out shooting (5th in 2PT%, 5th in 3PT% and excellent offensive rebounding while living with double-digit turnovers. Kentucky, meanwhile, still an above-average shooting outfit (30th in 2PT%, 68th in 3PT%) but engineers points by taking care of the basketball and snaring offensive rebounds at an even better rate than Indiana. Defensively, the Hoosiers have cobbled together a much better unit than last year by being slightly better than average at everything while Kentucky's is fueled largely by their ability to force misses (and they are very good at that). They don't excel at causing turnovers, are even worse at preventing offensive rebounds, and tend to put their opponents on the foul line a lot.
Coach Calipari plays a tight rotation, with seven guys getting the majority of the minutes and a rotation of three other guys that mix-and-match based on matchups and game flow. You've certainly heard about the guys that lead the team: Tyler Ulis is one of the premier point guards in the country and the trio of freshman: Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe, and Skal Labissiere give the Wildcats a lot of length and talent, something we've come to expect from Coach Cal's freshmen. The rest of that rotation, surprisingly, is made up of upperclassmen. Alex Poythress, the first four year player in Kentucky history under Coach Calipari (probably), along with two juniors: the sharpshooter Derek Willis and the hyper-athletic Marcus Lee.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH FOR:
- Yogi Ferrell (awesome point guard) vs. Tyler Ulis (awesome point guard): Honestly if these two just want to go 1-on-1 for 40 minutes to decide the game I'm 100% fine with it because this matchup is a classic. Both are smaller guards who use an elite first step and vast array of moves that can best be described as "sick" to both score the basketball and set up their teammates to do the same.
- Indiana's shooters vs. Kentucky's defensive length: Last year's nearly-perfect-but-not Kentucky team featured defensive length and athleticism, and while this group might not pack as mean as a punch, it's still a defining characteristic of the Wildcats -- and John Calipari teams, in general. Ol' BBN's squad blocked 9 shots in the first half alone against Stony Brook last night, and you best believe shot-altering will be one of Calipari's primary focuses prior to 5:15 tomorrow evening.
- OG Anunoby vs. Jamal Murray: It's no longer a thing to wonder about in theory or to talk about upside or the future. Anunoby's play is now integral for this Indiana team if a deep tournament run is going to occur. Don't be surprised if the Hoosiers' best defensive athlete sees a lion's share of minutes on Murray -- or even if he takes some minutes in relief on Tyler Ulis to give Yogi Ferrell a break on the defensive end. But a freshman on freshman matchup might define this one -- and there's nothing so far to indicate Anunoby wouldn't be up to the task against Murray's potent scoring.