Here we are about 28 hours from tipoff between the Kentucky Wildcats and Louisville Cardinals and the focus /concerns of the Big Blue Nation seem to be on two players: Terrence Jones and Marquis Teague.
It’s been a very tough month for Terrence Jones. Before the Indiana game, he was virtually unquestioned. Then came the MIA performance versus the Hoosiers and then the dislocated finger which cause him to miss part of three games. Rather fair or not, Jone’s performance against Louisville is going to be the barometer of how his is judged for the rest of his stay at Kentucky.
Personally, I think the negativity on Jones has been a bit unfair. Anyone watching the Chattanooga game can tell his finger was clearly mangled and that will obviously cause him to play a bit soft. I was in favor of him sitting out the last few games and getting healthy. That said, I am not a fan of how he played during the Indiana game, but I am not going to throw a kid under the bus for one game. Regardless, Jones knows the pressure is on him and that he “needs to toughen up”.
There is another angle on Jones that I have not seen addressed before so I am going to link it. We all know that Jones is from Portland and there may be a certain philosophical difference between the west coast and east coast players. I am not saying that I buy 100% into the ideology but it is an interesting theory and worth a good read. I have been asked several times on twitter my thoughts on Jones and I am willing to give Jones a chance for redemption against Louisville. I hope the rest of the BBN is too.
As we all recall, Marquis Teague was rumored to be a Louisville lean for months before the he committed to Kentucky so this game holds a special kind of scrutiny for him. Throw in the fact that the transition from high school to college has been a bit bumpier than it was for say John Wall and Brandon Knight and you have yet another area Kentucky fans are concerned about.
I will say it again. It is unfair at this point to compare Teague to Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, or Brandon Knight. First and foremost, Kentucky is a better passing team than the other teams and Teague does not have to carry this team on his shoulders. Doron Lamb and Darius Miller are great at being unselfish and helping with distributing the ball. Jones and Kidd-Gilchrist also have more assists than a lot of front court tandems. That said, Teague needs to work on shot selection and keep his head up and look for his teammates. We do not need Teague to be a scoring point guard and I think at times, that is his main preference.
Eric Crawford broke down the game and listed Teague as one of the keys and said that PG was the only area where he gave Louisville an edge. Even with that, Crawford picks Kentucky to win 81-69.
ESPN’s Jimmy Dykes also weighs in on the Marquis Teague vs Louisville debate and says Teague is “irreplaceable” to Kentucky the same way Jared Sullinger and Kendall Marshall are to their teams. Dykes also expects Pitino to press Teague constantly and force him to bring the ball up the court under pressure. Dykes has some interesting points, but personally think an all out pressure defense against Kentucky is going to lead to a ton of lobs and breakaway baskets for UK due to the Wildcats length and athleticism.
We are on the verge of another Kentucky/Louisville matchup and there is a huge reason why this is the biggest rivalry in college basketball. It’s win or die. That’s it. Unlike Duke/North Carolina, there is no home and home in the conference season and a possible rematch in the conference tournament. This is it. You get just one chance for the bragging rights for the year. Glenn Logan has an excellent piece on why this rivalry is the best in college hoops.
And finally, yes we are on the verge the LOUISVILLE GAME, so we have a ton of stuff planned for you today so keep checking back. Here is what we have on the agenda for the rest of your day:
11AM: Corey Price takes a look at all the stats and figures of the Kentucky/Louisville series with his “Inside the Numbers”
2PM: I am back with my “Know Your Enemy” for the Louisville game and I make my prediction
4PM: James caches us up on the “4PM Headlines”. He may talk more about Louisville.
6PM: Zach starts our sheer hate portion of the day with “The Louisville Problem”
8PM: James and MonsterMash continue the hate with a look at the Louisville fans.
10PM: Alan puts an end to the day and gives us our Nightcap
12AM: Corey is back with another “Inside the Numbers” for Top 5 matchups at Rupp Arena
So stay tuned all day for any breaking news and stuff that may pop up. I will be back around 10AM with a look at how our NBA Cats did yesterday. Make us your stop for Louisville stuff today. Point blank. Period.