Lets just get this out of the way right now; Kentucky is really good. In fact, they are pretty close to great. They might be one of the most talented teams over the last decade or so. They have 5 legit NBA players as their starting lineup. They have a player of the year candidate in Anthony Davis who is best defensive center in the country.
According to Sports-Reference.com, Anthony Davis leads the country in Win Shares at 11.1. The next best in the country is Jared Sullinger with 9.1. Baylor's highest player is Quincy Acy with 6.4. Davis is second in defense win share with 6.6, and 16th in offensive win share at 4.5. He is an amazing player who can take over a game on both ends of the court.
Along with Davis, they have two other Freshman starting and playing heavy minutes. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a 6-7 small forward, and one of the better wing players in the country. He will be matched up with Quincy Miller for most of the game I assume. Their other freshman is Marquis Teague, who starts at point guard for the Wildcats. He might be their "weak-link" out of their top 6. Too bad their weakest link averages 10 points per game and 4.8 assists per game.
When a 5-star freshman point guard who has played pretty good is your weakest link, you have a season like the Wildcats had. They went undefeated in the regular season of the SEC, and only lost two games on the year. This team is REALLY good.
So what do the Bears have to do to continue their journey and win that coveted spot in the Final Four? Find out after the jump.
Baylor has two big edges in this game, however it will be difficult to take advantage of one of them. The first advantage the Bears have is their 3-point shooting. A great 3-point shooting team always has a chance to beat any team if they get hot. Look at pretty much every big upset in the NCAA tournament in the last 25 years, and you will see a bunch of 3-pointers by the underdog.
When Kentucky does not get the ball inside and settles for too many 3-pointers, they can be beaten. Look at the Vanderbilt game as a good example. Baylor can also get VERY hot from behind the arc. The problem is, the Bears best 3-point shooter is really just a spot shooter, and someone that cannot create his own shot. He gets a lot of his looks from the defense helping in the post, and when they don't help, he can be contained one on one. Kentucky has the defensive ability to single cover our post players and stay out on the perimeter.
The other advantage the Bears have is their depth. Baylor really can go 9-deep, though they have cut the bench shorter recently. Kentucky really just rolls with 6 players. Their 7th player averages just 12 minutes per game. After that player, they don't have a single player with over 150 minutes played on the season. Of the 6 players they play, Darius Miller is the only one that is not a Freshman or Sophomore. This is a very young team with little depth.
The problem with that is, they have been like that all year. Everyone has always said, hey just get to their bench. Harder to do that in looks. Even when one player gets into foul trouble, five of their main players are able to play multiple positions. All but Teague is over 6-4.
Keys to the Game:
1.Make them double our post players
We have to be able to force Kentucky to double either Quincy Acy, Quincy Miller or Perry Jones III. I have no idea who Anthony Davis will match up on. I would expect Jones III, but would not be surprised to see him on Acy mostly, to make sure he does not take over the game. Acy has struggled with bigger and stronger players this year, and Davis is the best we will have seen.
If we can force the Wildcats to double down on our post players, that should give us penetration lanes or better looks from the 2-point line for Brady Heslip and Pierre Jackson.
2. Surprise Contributors
Let's just call this the Lomers game. We need some unexpected points, rebounds, blocks, or whatever from sources we normally don't get it. I expect Cory Jefferson to get some minutes in this game, especially if foul trouble happens again for the Bears. With Baylor playing more man defense, they have gotten into foul trouble a bit at several positions.
So who is going to step up? Is it Anthony Jones like against South Dakota State? Is it going to be Deuce Bello, or Two-Sleeves, or even someone farther down the bench like Gary Franklin. Who is going to step up and get the Bears something big.
3. No Long-Droughts
The only reason the Bears victory over Xavier was not much larger was an almost 5 minute drought near the end of the first half. Baylor cannot do that against Kentucky. They did that against the two other elite teams we have played (Missouri and Kansas) and it cost them in 5 games this year. The Bears need to stop runs and make sure they get good shots on most possessions.
One weakness I have seen for the Bears this year is their lack of a guy to just get to the free throw line at times and slow the game down, or stop a run. Tu Holloway did this for Xavier against us, but we have not had a player consistently do this for us. Hopefully, Pierre Jackson can grow into that guy, as he is an excellent free throw shooter.
4.Limit Turnovers and Fastbreak Points
Baylor cannot turn the ball over more than 12 times in this game to really have a chance, at least in my opinion. They also cannot let the Wildcats get out and run, as this is when their game goes to another level. When the Wildcats get out and run, they really start attacking on defense to get more chances for fast break opportunities.
In a half court game, the Wildcats lack of a true seasoned point guard can limit their offensive possessions. They will sometimes look a bit uninterested on offense, and not really move the ball. Baylor has to make this a half court game and make Kentucky work for their points.
5. Make shots
This is not going to be a game where we see both teams in the 50s or even 60s. Kentucky is going to score. They are going to get to 70 points more than likely. Baylor has to make shots and shoot the ball well. The Bears will not have the advantage in height in this game, so to depend on second chance points and offensive rebounds will be risky. Baylor has to simply make shots. If they are open, they have to hit them.
The magic numbers for 3-pointers is usually 10 for an upset. Baylor has to hit that, and shoot at least 45% from the field to give themselves a fighting chance.
The Bears have a tough game on their hands. They will have to play great basketball to win this game, and probably catch a few breaks. Kentucky is the best team in the country, but they are not perfect. However, I just don't see the Bears winning this one. Kentucky wins 82-74.