Coming off 3-straight losses, you'd generally want to see an easy opponent staring at you as the next foe on the schedule. Who would you problably NOT want to see? Ah, Kentucky I'd say. Welp, who do we have to play tonight? Kentucky! Yay! (cries inside).
Tonight State takes on the Kentucky Wildcats at home in ESPN's SEC Super Tuesday matchup. The Wildcats come in unblemished in SEC play and with only one loss for the entire season. Tonight we'll find out just how well State handles the adversity they're going through right now, but what do we know about their opponent tonight? Well, our friends from A Sea of Blue, SBNation's blog for all things Kentucky Wildcats, have been so kind as to stop by and answer a few questions on the Wildcats to help us get to know them. They also share with us how they see tonight's game transpiring.
Q1: So many of us outside of Lexington are amazed at how Coach Calipari can gel so many high-profile and young talents to play so well together and make a #1 team. How do you think Calipari gets all those talents to play so well as a team?
Frankly, we are just as amazed as you are, but the answer is not something many outside of Lexington want to hear. But the fact of the matter is that Calipari, despite his reputation, is a very honest person. Before he will take a player, the player has to convince him that he understands how Kentucky's system works, and that there is only one way to success on his teams -- to work hard and accept a role that will almost certainly not be a starring one.
If you look at the players he has recruited, most of them have been high-quality people as well as good basketball players. That's why you don't see him normally get involved with kids that have a reputation as head cases (with one notable exception who will remain unnamed, but who did very well while he was here). Calipari is choosy about his players, and frank with them about what it means to play here, both for their future as a Wildcat and after, and he keeps his word to them. That is well-known, and helps players who are willing to fit into his system self-identify.
Q2: Obviously, everyone knows about POY candidate Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Give us a name we may not know as much about that is key to Kentucky's success this season.
Darius Miller. Miller has a tendency to blend into the background as more of a glue guy, but as the season progresses and his confidence grows, Miller becomes as dangerous a player as any of his more highly-touted teammates. Miller is simply an impossible matchup at 6'8", 230lb with guard skills. He can play four spots on the floor, including the offensive initiator, and is one of the best passers on the team. He can shoot it to NBA range at a high percentage and post up with the best power forwards in the league. He is Kentucky's secret weapon.
Q3: Anthony Davis vs. Arnett Moultrie - how do you see this much anticipated matchup playing out Tuesday night?
Moultrie is one of the more skilled players that Davis has faced at the center/PF spot, but Davis simply out-talents Moultrie by a significant margin. Moultrie is going to have to play a very crafty game against Davis, because he cannot overpower him and he can't shoot over him. Moultrie's game is very similar to Davis' offensively, where he gets a lot of points off cuts to the basket and offensive rebounds. He's also quick enough to guard Davis on the perimeter, but unless Davis decides to start shooting the ball out there, that doesn't help much.
Q4: What are the keys for Kentucky to have a chance to win in Starkville?
Kentucky must do four things well:
- Identify the Bulldogs' shooters and force them to put it on the floor;
- Rebound defensively;
- Keep Davis out of foul trouble;
- Avoid turnovers.
If UK does all three of these things, the Bulldogs will have to play near-perfectly to win, even at home. There is simply no dealing with the impact Anthony Davis makes as a shot blocker, and you guys should know that better than anybody having had a truly great one in Jarvis Varnado. Davis is like Varnado, except he can do everything Varnado does plus dribble and run like a guard and shoot like a wing forward, even though he rarely does.
Q5: Score prediction and game outcome prediction
MSU matches up well against Kentucky, the only team in the SEC besides Tennessee to do so. At home, the Bulldogs are going to be very tough, and there is no doubt that the Dawgs will be looking forward to this game. Both teams like a similar pace, and I think it will boil down to which team executes the best. Kentucky is somewhat due for a letdown game, but they haven't shown any inclination to regress, so I think we have to proceed on the assumption that they won't.
A big thanks to Glenn and the rest of the crew at A Sea of Blue for taking time out to answer our questions. Best of luck gentlemen and may the best (or maybe just the home) team win tonight!