Kentucky? You guys again? It feels just like yesterday that Mizzou was getting pantsed by Big Blue on National Television to the horrifyingly annoying tones of Dick Vitale. Since we last played the greatest team ever, Mizzou now sits at 7-12 and 1-5 in conference, not last, take that Vanderbilt (note, after this game we’ll probably be tied again)!
Presenting the University of Kentucky TameKittens
location: Where they make bourbon, KenTawk-Kee
This being a preview of a team we’ve already played and, frankly, weren’t looking forward to playing again... I don’t plan to waste your time re-hashing something you’ve already read, that’s boring and rude. We know they have many mascots of assorted dress and alumni that may or may not be famous. What we didn’t touch on in the last version is fun facts about the state of Kentucky and its flagship university, so let’s dive in shall we?
In Kentucky it is illegal to dye a duckling blue and offer it for sale unless more than six are for sale at once. I imagine this comes up a lot around easter time. People buying ducklings at the side of the road and they only come in natural?! What is this communist Russia?! Thanks Kentucky for ruining my Sunday.
In someplace called Owensboro it is illegal for a woman to purchase a hat without her husband’s permission. I wonder if Kentucky has a definition for the word hat... does it include visors, sombreros, fezzes, my god what will the elk lodge people do if it includes fezzes?! What if a woman is single and a cat lady and she wants one of those trucker hats that were popular 10 years ago with a spray painted version of Mrs. Pitter Patter’s head on it? She has to ask some man?! I think not, what is this communist Russia?
James Bond (a British spy with a taste for ladies, booze and action) once stopped Auric Goldfinger (a notorious admirer of Gold, bullion dealer and cheater at golf) and his forces from robbing Fort Knox, which is in Kentucky. This all took place in 1964 and they made a documentary about it, under the name "Goldfinger." Residents of Kentucky are forced to watch this and write a report on the documentary to graduate from high school.
The state drink is the mint julep, the mint julep is a cocktail that consists of mint, sugar and bourbon, served in a mug packed with ice. This is how NOT to make a Mint Julep: Miami Club YouTube Video on How To Make A Mint Julep. Fortunately, we have a demonstration on the right way to make one: The Mint Julep is NOT a Mojito with Bourbon. Bourbon is a serious thing to a lot of people, so be careful with it, don't mistreat it like that silly Miami bartender did.
Interestingly the University of Kentucky has not always been known as simply as the University of Kentucky, you see it started out as an A&M, and we all know what we think of when we think A&M. Once the whole A&M thing passed (as we always hope it does), they chose to be called Kentucky University. Then the school merged with Transylvania University purely for marketing purposes. You see when your school is full of vampires and werewolves people get nervous, what with being surrounded by vampires and all. Not that there's anything wrong with that. No, of course not, I mean if that's who you are. Many Kentuckians probably have tons of friends who are vampires...(editor's note, Sam's dad is a vampire -- if not, he's possibly the palest non-vamp I've ever seen). Which just goes to prove that the whole Abraham Lincoln movie (this one, not this one) was also based on fact, like Goldfinger was. Kentucky then changed their name to State University, Lexington, Kentucky (go S.U.K.L.!) at which point Transylvania University came back into being once everyone got comfortable with the vampires. Finally, Kentucky settled on the University of Kentucky back in 1916, not so long ago and adopted the abbreeeev UK. I imagine once the Queen gets word of this, the United Kingdom will drop a lawsuit hammer on Kentucky faster than A&M does on a Bills Fan Group.
As you can see, Kentucky's had more iterations than Prince. Speaking of Prince, Coach Cal better have a play called Computer Blue, if not he's missing a big opportunity. Can you imagine? A game ending on this:
I mean, I wouldn't even care about losing.
With this game being played in Columbia, Missouri, the greatest college town in all the land, I expect most of you reading this will be going and won't be letting random bandwagon Kentucky fans be louder than our fans, right? RIGHT? Well if for some reason you can't make it to the game (you live out of state, are in jail, or trapped under something heavy and you need assistance), you can always watch the game on ESPN, the world wide leader in blah, blah, blah. It's at home so there's a chance. But if you are in CoMO, head to Bengals for a pre game beer to get all jacked up (they're a dollar or something, make it rain up in there) and then go back post game to either celebrate the improbable or to drown out the probable. Either way, there will be beer, and you'll feel better about everything.
About Their Basketball Team
By Sam Snelling: I guess Kentucky is pretty good, yeah? We previewed their season to the point that they played Missouri last a few weeks ago. You can read it if you haven't already.
Since that time, Kentucky is still in search of their first loss of the season. After dispatching of the Tigers the last time out, UK took care of Alabama, Vanderbilt and South Carolina in less convincing fashion, but still thorough. They'll enter the game looking for their 20th win out of 20 games for the season. At this point, there really isn't a whole lot to write with Kentucky because I'd imagine most everyone reading this knows about them. The only chance that you don't is if this is your introduction to college basketball. And if this is your intro to college basketball, I apologize for my colleague. He means well.
The Wildcats are led by Devin Booker, who was close to being a Missouri Tiger. Booker continues to get better and better and is currently making half of his 3 point attempts. So, might want to keep an eye on him. Before the season we did a team preview on the Wildcats also, you can find it here: PREVIEW
Now for a closer look at their basketball team, let's chat with somebody who knows them best...
Q&A With A SEA OF BLUE
A big thanks to our friend Will Marshall, he writes under the name wamarsh at ASeaOfBlue.com and TeamSpeedKills.com, for answering our questions about this game. Will helped us preview UK on the Podcast before the game in Lexington a few weeks ago. He does excellent work over at ASOB and TSK.
RockMNation: The last game was difficult to remember through the fog of bourbon and point differential. What does Missouri need to do to keep this game closer this time around?
Will Marshall: The UK squad could get food poisoning, or Mizzou could take the red pill. Those options aside, UK may well come out flat yet again, and Mizzou will have to capitalize via forcing UK to take bad shots and out-rebounding the 'Cats. If it's an off-night for UK's shooters - a real possibility - this game will stay uncomfortably close for UK fans.
RMN: How has the team progressed since beating the stuffing out of our Tigers?
Marshall: They've won all three games since Mizzou visited Lexington, but those three wins ran a diverse gamut. UK looked like sure-fire national title contenders at Alabama. Three days later the 'Cats were flat against an upset-minded Vandy team, and ended up winning by 8, but UK was outscored in the second half. Saturday's game against South Carolina probably fell somewhere between the previous two games. UK played well defensively, but the team struggled offensively.
Not trying to rub salt in the wounds of the Mizzou faithful, but the best player on UK's team since we last met has undoubtedly been Devin Booker. He's been named the SEC Freshman of the Week for three straight weeks, to include making 50% of his three point shots. I believe Kim Anderson described his shooting as "salty" on yesterday's teleconference which I think hits the nail on the head. He's shooting so well that it's beyond "great" and has entered "spiteful" territory.
RMN: Beyond the Tigers, what game do you think is left on the schedule that has the most chance to spoil the undefeated season?
Marshall: Conventional wisdom probably says sometime during the back-to-back road games at Florida and then LSU. While I think that view is probably correct, I have a growing sense it'll be one of those games that just comes out of the blue, similar to Vandy last week. Maybe at Tennessee in a few weeks?
RMN: Let's say Kentucky wins the National Championship. Who goes pro? Who stays?Let's say Kentucky doesn't win the National Championship. Who goes pro? Who stays?
Marshall: If UK wins I think the Harrison twins, Willie Caulie-Stein, Karl-Anthony Towns, Trey Lyles, Dakari Johnson, and Devin Booker all go pro. If UK doesn't win I lean towards thinking Dakari will come back, and maybe Booker but he's increasingly playing his way into the lottery so who knows. I think Tyler Ulis and Marcus Lee return regardless, and Alex Poythress' decision hinges on if he's physically recovered enough to workout for teams prior to the draft.
RMN: Last, how do you see this game playing out? Predictions?
Marshall: I think UK wins 63-47. Mizzou will play tough defense and rebound, but UK's defense prevents Mizzou from closing the gap, and creates some easy buckets in transition.
Again, thanks to Will for taking the time to answer the questions. He's good at what he does, and I recommend a follow.
Our three keys last time didn't work. Looking back, we listed them as Hitting the offensive glass, turn UK into a jump shooting team, and make your open shots count. Now those were, in fact, pretty good keys... but Missouri did the opposite of executing them. This time around, we'll take a slightly different approach, since the game is in a different venue, and you hope Mizzou won't lose by 49 again.
1) Outside Shooting
It's going to be important for the Tigers to knock down 3-point shots. They are entirely capable and have shown the capacity to not only knock down shots, but knock down important shots late in games. The 3 pointer is something that has completely leveled the playing field for most teams at the college level. And when bad teams beat good ones, it's usually because they hit more than they average from outside. Missouri has to shoot the ball well, Kentucky has to shoot the ball poorly.
2) Opportunity to score
Kentucky is a great defensive team, Missouri is a poor offensive one. When those two met at Kentucky the outcome was an ugly one, for Mizzou to remain competitive in this game they have to be somewhat efficient on the offensive end. If they score anything less than 60 points, they have no shot. If they get to 60, it's possible for Kentucky to have a tough enough shooting game for Mizzou to have a shot.
3) Take care of the ball, Turn them over
Missouri simply isn't good enough to have empty possessions. They aren't going to make every shot, but the fewer times they turn the ball over the more attempts they get at the rim. And they're going to need to maximize those opportunities. If Mizzou can somehow find a way to have fewer than 10 turnovers (which they did against Arkansas), and find a way to force Kentucky to turn the ball over around 15 times... they'll be in the game. That's about as much as I can say about it.
The outside possibility in this is that Kentucky doesn't show up. I mean, they've already shown that they are a superior team over Mizzou (not that anyone doubted that much). So it's within the realm of possibility that Kentucky thinks that by showing up they can just impose their will on Missouri, and win again by more than 30 points.
That could lead to Mizzou knocking down some shots early, Kentucky struggling on offense, and allowing MIzzou to dictate the pace of the game. It could also mean that a few rolls go Mizzou's way, Johnathan Williams III makes 9 of 13, instead of missing 12 of 13 shots. It's possible that Missouri shoots 9 of 20 from 3, instead of 1 of 18 like they did in round one. You just don't get much worse than shooting 27% from the field, 5% from 3 and 50% from the FT line. So there is reason to think that Missouri should perform better.
It's also entirely possibly that Kentucky realizes that they can't take this game for granted for those exact reasons. It's possible that they come out with every ounce of effort, and play ridiculous and win by 55 points, just to prove they can. I mean, this team has that potential. I've seen them play 10 or so games this year, and I don't think I've seen them play their best.
KenPom says 68-50, last time it was 86-37. And conventional wisdom says that home court is worth about 10 points. So take 10 points off UK, add 10 points for Mizzou and you get 76-47. I tend to think that Kentucky knows that Missouri will be burning for a chance to match up again after getting blown out the way they did. If they were expecting Missouri to just roll over again, I doubt you get Kentucky's best effort and something closer to KenPom's projection. As it is, I think it's closer to the 76-47 score, but I'll say: Kentucky 73, Missouri 49.
As per usual leave your predictions and trifecta picks in the comments below. For the trifecta, I'll take Shamburger, MGC and Clark.