BOZICH | Who'll be first to come within 15 points of Kentucky? - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Who'll be first to come within 15 points of Kentucky?

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WDRB) – Kentucky 92, Texas Arlington 44 – and it wasn't that close.

It was 8-3, 23-7, 42-12 and … you get the picture. The Wildcats could have won by 70. Or maybe they did. It's the fourth time this season the Wildcats have won by 32 or more.

Actually, mark it down as Kentucky's sixth consecutive victory by 19 or more points. This has been domination that we did not see in the first half-dozen games from the 2012 UK national champions or the 2010 team with five first-round draft picks that started 19-0.

So the debate after yet another Kentucky blast of dominance isn't which team is going to beat Kentucky. No, let's start something more realistic:

Which team will be the first opponent to come within 15 points of the Wildcats?

Remember: After six games, UK's average margin of victory is 36.3, including that 32-point win over Kansas. It's become standard operating procedure to ask the opposing coach if the Wildcats can go unbeaten.

"It's very possible they could go undefeated," UTA coach Scott Cross said. "It would have to be one of the powerhouse teams having an unbelievable night to knock them off." 

I'll rank the contenders:

7. Arkansas (Feb. 28, Rupp) – The Razorbacks are not a bad club. They might be the third-best team in the Southeastern Conference. They went to Dallas and beat SMU, 78-72, Tuesday night to move to 4-0.

They lead the nation in scoring at 93 points per game. Don't forget that Mike Anderson has most of the firepower back from the team that beat Kentucky twice last season.

But Arkansas doesn't get its crack at UK until Feb. 28 – and the game is in Rupp Arena. Somebody will make it closer than 15 by then.

Right? RIGHT??

Calling Card: Scoring, with a nice ability to make three-point shots, 8.3 per game.

Sagarin Says: Kentucky by 12.57.

Pomeroy Says: UK, 83-67.

6. UCLA (Dec. 20, United Center, Chicago) – I hesitated before putting Steve Alford's team on the list. Why? They surrendered 78 points to Montana State, the same Montana State that scored 28 against UK Sunday.


But the Bruins have a few nice pieces – and they might be the best three-point shooting team Kentucky will play this season. They're making 9 per game. Of course, they're also the worst defensive team in this group. That won't work against the Wildcats.

Calling Card: Three-point shooting. The Bruins rank 25th in the nation in three-pointers per game and are making better than 42 percent of their attempts. One of Alford's best shooters is his son, Bryce.

Sagarin Says: UK by 11.05.

Pomeroy Says: UK, 78-69.

5. Providence (Sunday, Rupp) – As they say on the playgrounds, the Friars have next. They should arrive with a 6-0 record if they can handle Yale Friday night. They've already handled Florida State and Notre Dame so the Ivy Leaguers should not be an issue.

Here is the issue: Providence doesn't do anything great. They're ordinary on defense (190th in defensive field goal percentage), solid in rebounding margin and nothing special from the three-point line. Not a compelling formula.

They have a great scorer in LaDontae Henton, who averages 23.4 per game. But he's only 6 feet 6. They've got some legitimate size, but nobody inside who shows up on 2015 NBA Draft boards. And I heard Tuesday night at Rupp, that the Friars are dealing with ankle injuries to two of their top guards -- Kris Dunn and Jalen Lindsay. Coach Ed Cooley told the Providence Journal that he did not expect either guy to play against Yale or UK.

Calling Card: Henton. He's legit. Henton scored 38 against Notre Dame and was the MVP of the Big East Tournament last season.

Sagarin Says: UK by 12.8.

Pomeroy Says: UK, 73-59.

4. Florida (Feb. 7, Gainesville; March 7, Rupp) – I'm not sure what to make of the Gators. Billy Donovan probably feels the same way. His guys have been injured. His bench has been short. He's lucky his team is 2-1 instead of 1-2.

But it's Donovan. He beat Kentucky three times last season. He's won a pair of national titles. He's got material, if everybody gets well. And he'll have a plan.

Calling Card: The Gators still guard. Opponents are only shooting 37.1 percent against Florida.

Sagarin Says: UK by 4.52 in Gainesville.

Pomeroy Says: UK, 65-62 in Gainesville; UK, 69-59 in Rupp.

3. Texas (Dec. 5, Rupp) -- The Longhorns are talented. They have length. They have experience. They added center Myles Turner, a guy Kentucky, Duke and others recruited – and he's giving Rick Barnes about 9 points and 6 rebounds.

But …

Texas point guard Isaiah Taylor is out with a wrist injury and won't play against the Wildcats. Sorry.

Calling Card: The Longhorns are plus-12 on the glass and they rank third in the nation in defensive field goal percentage (29.5), with wins over Iowa and California on neutral courts. Nobody has scored more than 57 on Texas in five wins.

Sagarin Says: UK by 8.01

Pomeroy Says: UK, 69-60.

2. Louisville (Dec. 27, KFC Yum! Center, Louisville) – I'll go ahead and predict the Cards will win the poll at the top of this story (especially now that I fixed it to include U of L, right?). They're the first team in the group to get the Wildcats at home.

Rick Pitino has the guards to match-up with the Harrison Twins. Montrezl Harrell is capable of becoming a beast every time he's on the court. But Calipari has been nearly flawless in head-to-head games against Pitino since he took over at UK, winning six of seven games.

Calling Card: Louisville ranks fifth in field-goal defense (31.5) and 16th in rebound margin (plus-14.8), although the numbers are skewed by the competition.

Sagarin Says: Louisville by 1.19, factoring in the homecourt advantage.

Pomeroy Says: Louisville, 72-70.

1. North Carolina (Dec. 13, Rupp) – After a break in the schedule, the Tar Heels and Wildcats have resumed their rivalry, although when I saw UNC coach Roy Williams at ACC Media Day in October he told me that he should have waited until next season.

Look for him to use that line again as the game approaches.

North Carolina has the size to attack the basket with 6-9, 280-pound Kennedy Meeks, who is averaging a double-double, plus Joel James, Justin Jackson and Brice Johnson. Marcus Paige, UNC's point guard, was a pre-season all-American, but he's only averaged 12 points in the Tar Heels' first three games. The Tar Heels should arrive battle-tested after competing in the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas, a field that also includes Wisconsin, UCLA, Georgetown, Butler, Florida, Oklahoma and UAB.

Calling Card: The Tar Heels can rebound. They're plus-15.3 on the glass.

Sagarin Says: UK by 9.55

Pomeroy Says: UK, 78-66.

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