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Film Study: Kentucky vs. Michigan State

Looking at the upcoming enemy on film in a game where they took on the number one team in the country and came up just short.


Let me begin this post by prefacing that though I am only doing the film from one game, I tried to choose things that I noticed after taking in three different Kentucky games.

Stopping Julius Randle

This is impossible. Julius Randle will be the best player on the court during the game, there is no question about it. Baylor can only hope to slow him down and even that will be difficult. The question is, how do we do that?

The Double-Team

Obviously the best way to keep Randle contained is by denying him the ball, but since that is unlikely to work for forty minutes, the double team has proven fairly effective.

Now, double teams are nothing new to the guy, but he is still adjusting to college basketball double teams and struggles to find the open man because of his confidence in his own ability. It's a pretty common downfall for him right now, but the problem is that sometimes even that is not enough and you cannot double every single time because Kentucky is too talented everywhere else.

Here - the man simply takes control of the game when his team needed a bucket. He did it against THREE guys, so like I said earlier, though it is true for the most part - helping out on Randle is not going to prevent him from making his presence felt in the gym ... err ... football stadium.

Attacking the Wildcats' Defense

Obviously, Calipari has had some incredible talent come through his programs, but that is not enough to win a championship. He knows how to get guys playing defense from the start better than almost anyone and this team is no exception. That does not mean that they are impenetrable. In fact, their biggest weakness is dribble penetration as shown below:

Just Drive Baby

This Kentucky team is incredibly young with four freshmen and one sophomore starting for the Wildcats. This shows in how they handle screens. They frequently give up the curl. I think I counted it happening over 10 times in the Michigan State game and frequently in the others. Curl the screen, one or two dribbles, rim. I hope Chery/Franklin/Heslip take advantage of this.

By the time March rolls around, this will not occur as frequently, but they are still having communication issues when guys drive off of a screen. Expect to see a ton of screens from both teams in this game both on the ball and off of it. One more time so that you see what I mean:

Stopping Their Offense

Their offense runs through Julius Randle and when it does not, it gets a bit frantic unless it is a drawn up play for James Young as shown below.

Double Screens Make Threes

Luckily for us, Royce O'Neale will probably guard James Young and he has shown signs of being able to take this play out from the beginning. Calipari goes to this almost every time they are in a funk offensively. It's simple, but effective - Young can shoot and he's long which makes it harder for defenders to affect his shot. This means if you just get held up for a fraction of a second, he is getting an open look. I'm actually really confident in O'Neale when they run this.

The rest of their offense is either back to the basket with Randle, or ...

... face up with Randle. Their offense feeds off of an inside out game between Randle and the guards. Cauley-Stein is great with put-backs and might ultimately be our demise if Isaiah Austin cannot keep him out of the paint.

Overall I think what you see is a team that has not quite gelled yet defensively, and relies a little too heavily on Julius Randle on both ends of the floor. The problem is that the are just so ridiculously talented that everything has to be exploited just right in order to keep pace. The one thing I did not show here is that Andrew Harrison likes to push it up the floor from time to time, and though he has not quite mastered finishing - our transition defense has been so poor that it would not matter. A lot of people will look at this game and think that there is little chance the Bears win, however I think that there is a greater chance than most realize - especially if Randle gets in foul trouble early.

Tomorrow I am going to have a head-to-head match-up preview for each position/bench/coach where we will do predictions as well! For now, let me know what you have seen in Kentucky that is either A) Vulnerable or B) Solid.