There are ways to beat Kentucky in basketball, even if it doesn’t look like it after 13 games
Ever since Kentucky escaped with a three point victory at home over Ole Miss earlier this week, the question has been asked if the recipe to beat the Wildcats had been made.
The Wildcats have looked like a team that wouldn’t be challenged until March when they bulldozed their way through the nonconference schedule, including dominating wins over Providence, UCLA, Kansas, Texas and Louisville. The talk of 40-0 and matching the 1976 Indiana undefeated team started to pop up more regularly.
So, what are the keys to beating Kentucky you might ask? Well, luckily for you, this writer has watched almost every minute of Kentucky’s games this season and can provide opposing coaches some insight of what to do to beat the Wildcats that doesn’t involve feeding Kentucky meals with food poisoning.
1) Have a roster with depth
The only team that could possibly match Kentucky’s talent in the starting five is Duke, but can you be balanced enough to match the second unit for the Wildcats? Kentucky can run a war of attrition because there’s no problem with the Cats going nine deep, sometimes 10 deep. Opposing coaches have to make a decision of playing your starters the entire game or rotate your bench in and hope they don’t get blown out. As we saw in the Ole Miss game, cramps slowed down Stefon Moody, which could have cost the Rebels the game. Depth allows for this not to happen as depth is a bigger concern than conditioning for opponents facing Kentucky.
2) Have a talented frontcourt with at least one player who can stretch the floor
To say Kentucky is tall and excels at blocking shots is like saying 2+2=4. In other words, no kidding guy. So, what do you do to counter that? You need a player like Arkansas’ Bobby Portis who can step out and hit jumpers consistently from 12-18 feet. Bonus points if you have a big guy who can hit shots from behind the arc. This will pull away one of the two bigs for Kentucky, most likely Karl-Anthony Towns from the paint.
3) Have taller guards who can get into the lane
This was the biggest take away in terms of concern going forward from the Ole Miss game. The Rebels had two guards in Jarvis Summers and Moody who were not only able to shoot the rock but dangerous driving to the hoop. More importantly a taller guard like Summers completely took Kentucky’s best on-ball defender in Tyler Ulis out of the game. Ulis, who stands at just 5’8”, only played 2 of the final 13 minutes of the game because he became a liability.
4) Shoot lights out from deep
You need to go three points for two points as much as possible. The Wildcats are holding their opponents to roughly 30 percent shooting per game from the floor. If you’re going into the paint you have to deal with the length while you can hope a player gets hot from deep. If you can contain Kentucky to scoring two points on the following possession, call it a win and keep chucking.
5) Have a non-star have a career game
There seems to be some sort of magic when playing in Rupp Arena against Kentucky. The old coach speak that the Wildcats are everyone’s Super Bowl is true as players seem to be a little more excited coming into Lexington than other places around the SEC. So, in order to beat Kentucky you need your third or fourth option to have a breakout game like Moody did for Ole Miss. If anyone was expected to score like that Summers or Ladarius White would be the obvious choice, but by having that scoring input from a third or fourth option, it allows your offense to be more fluid.
- Catch Kentucky a game before or a game after a big test
This year’s version of Kentucky has shown it can be vulnerable when it comes to a ‘boring’ game. Before its showdown with Kansas, the Wildcats were losing at halftime to Buffalo. Before the challenge against Texas, Kentucky led Providence by just four points at half. Then there was the close call against Columbia, which was the game prior to North Carolina. There’s a chance this team can sleep on a middle of the pack SEC foe, in which case the advantage is there for the taken.