Terrence Jones, seen here against Kansas at Madison Square Garden.
It's a big challenge on the road at Rupp Arena. The Wildcats are dominant in front of the home fans in the Commonwealth, having won all 36 contests they have played under Coach John Calipari at home. With an excellent crop of elite freshmen, the Wildcats have realistic dreams of a Final Four. The Red Storm face a tall task tomorrow.
To get to know them better, we reached out to Glenn at A Sea of Blue for answers about fan expectations, how their freshmen have done, what the game plan is to defeat Kentucky, and more. We thank A Sea of Blue for their help; look for more pregame posts in the coming day. But your questions about Kentucky are answered... after the jump.
(the Rumble's answers about the St. John's/ Kentucky game are now posted at A Sea of Blue)
Q. What's the feeling about this team? I know it's early, but is this the Kentucky team that can win it all?
The feeling is that this is the best team Kentucky has put together since 1996. It is just as talented as the 2010 team (maybe slightly more so) and a far better perimeter shooting team, which is what eventually cost us in the Elite Eight in 2010. Also, this team might be the most athletic team in Kentucky history, although that is subject to some debate.
The Big Blue Nation is understandably excited about the prospects of this team, and the expectations are for a Final Four at minimum, and event that would feel like a disappointment if the Wildcats didn't bring home the trophy.
Q. What issues could you see popping up for the Wildcats? What have been the warning signs for the team so far, and what do the Cats have to work on?
We don't look like a particularly good offensive rebounding team, and this team, as most skilled teams do, shies away from a lot of contact. That's mostly AAU and high school behavior that can be coached out of them, though. But we don't have a lot of beef in our front line, although it is very tall and absurdly athletic.
Other than that, our depth is a concern. Kentucky only goes about eight players deep right now, and we are very thin at point guard having only one true point available until the second semester, when Twany Beckham becomes eligible.
Q. How could an opposing team beat Kentucky?
[Old Dominion] gave us a contest by being very physical, so I suppose for now, that would have to be the model. Also, Marquis Teague has been a bit up and down at the point, so him having a bad game, especially turning the ball over, is another way to a close contest.
But there is no sure formula. Kentucky can shoot the ball as well as any team in America from the perimeter, so zoning them is risky. The only team that runs better is North Carolina, and even they don't have the offensive flexibility UK does. There really are no clear weak spots on this team except depth, and so far, that hasn't been close to a problem.
Q. How have the freshmen been for Kentucky? Who has been most impressive?
They have been great. They all bring something a little different:
- Anthony Davis -- absurd athleticism and shot blocking.
- Marquis Teague -- impressive point guard skills.
- Kyle Wiltjer -- best outside stroke on the team, scores from all angles and fights for rebounds.
- Michael Kidd-Gilchrist -- an endless motor, nose for the ball, and defensive intensity worthy of a senior. He also is our most creative and versatile scorer.
I'd say Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has been the most impressive because he was the most physically ready (not just size-wise, but mentally) for the college game. He will take it to anybody, and stopping him on the break is a pipe dream. Defensively, he is a nightmare. We have even had him guarding point guards.
Q. How has Marquis Teague been at running the Kentucky attack?
Good, but not great. He's right on the same course as some other pretty good point guards you may have heard of, like John Wall and Brandon Knight, so we are not really worried about him getting it sooner rather than later. Turnovers have been a problem for him, and understanding you need to make the easy play and not the spectacular one, but he improves every game.
Q. The next wave: who are the Wildcat signees, and who else is anticipated for next year?
Next year, we have Archie Goodwin, the #2 shooting guard, Willie Cauley, the #6 center, and Alex Poythress, the #8 power forward all signed. Goodwin is ranked by Rivals.com as the #12 overall player, Poythress #19, and Cauley #39.
We obviously hope to get Shabazz Muhammad, but there are several other players like Anthony Bennett and Devonta Pollard that we would also like to have.
Bonus: what are good places to eat/ drink around Rupp?
Jonathan at Gratz Park $
Pazzo’s Pizza $
Two Keys Tavern (campus scene, pub grub)
Tolly Ho $
Charlie Brown’s Restaurant (campus scene,pub grub)
DeSha's and The Horse and Barrel (bar)