CRAWFORD | How Kentucky beats Indiana: 5 thoughts - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | How Kentucky beats Indiana: 5 thoughts

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AP photo. AP photo.

DES MOINES, Iowa (WDRB) — Something doesn’t seem quite right here. You know, when you ask guys a question and all of them answer with almost the same words, either they’re telling the truth, or they’re saying what they were told to say.

Everybody knows, Kentucky coach John Calipari doesn’t go into exhaustive detail in his scouting reports. His modus operandi: get the best players, get them playing their best, hope it’s enough.

It’s hard to argue with the results.

But I thought it a little strange a day ahead of UK’s second-round NCAA Tournament meeting with Indiana that when I asked players what makes the Hoosiers’ offense so challenging, and what the Wildcats need to do to stop it, so many said the same thing.

Tyler Ulis: “I really haven’t watched them, so I don’t know.

Isaiah Briscoe: “We haven’t seen them, so I couldn’t tell you.”

Jamal Murray: “I haven’t watched them. I don’t know anything about them.”

All right, I get the picture. It might well be that UK hadn’t taken a look at IU by that point. It might also be that Calipari has a little wrinkle for the Hoosiers today. I guess we’ll find out at game time.

Kentucky is a 3 1/2-point favorite entering the game. The over-under line is at 156 1/2. Vegas is looking for a game in the high 70’s. That’s the result of a game in which Kentucky gets its way.

Calipari talked about the difficulty of preparing for what Indiana does offensively.

“It's funny, when you prepare for them they're going to run 102 things on the right side and 113 on the left and flip guys -- so you've gotta coach principles versus what they're using, the plays they're using. Tommy does a great job of putting his guys in great positions, using the talents that he has, you know. The guys that should be diving are diving. The guys that should be shooting are shooting. The guys that should be driving are driving. So it will be -- it's a hard game to prepare for, but to be honest, again, I come back to, I'm really concerned about my team and what we have to do to be able to play in a game like this.”

All right, so how does Kentucky win this game?

1. BY FORCING THE DRIVE AND DEFENDING WELL INSIDE. I expect to see Kentucky try to run Indiana off the three-point line and force the Hoosiers to take it inside preferably (for UK) on the dribble or by throwing it in. Then Kentucky needs a big defensive game from Skal Labissiere and/or Marcus Lee. The Wildcats won’t block an NCAA-record 15 shots like they did against Stony Brook in the opener, but if they get a few early to get into the heads of Indiana drivers, it will be a plus. By making Indiana drive in for mid-range scores and get to the rim, the Wildcats won’t completely stop Indiana, but they also might keep the Hoosiers from getting into the kind of three-point rhythm that can be devastating when they get it going.

2. BY CONTROLLING TEMPO AND THE DEFENSIVE GLASS. I expect this to be a high-scoring game, but Kentucky doesn’t really like the up-and-down tempo. Its tempo on the season has ranked near the lower third of college basketball. This has been a weakness of Kentucky all season, and could be a fatal weakness against Indiana. The Hoosiers rank No. 15 nationally in offensive rebound percentage, third-best of any team Kentucky has played this season (Louisville was higher, a 2-point win in Rupp Arena on Dec. 26, and South Carolina, a blowout win in February). If Kentucky can deny Indiana its usual number of second-opportunities, it has a chance to frustrate the Hoosiers offensively — and keep the game in the low-70s or high 60s, where it would like the game to be played.

3. BY FORCING TURNOVERS. Indiana has been prone to be careless with the ball. Kentucky is not a big steals team. Under Calipari, the focus has been on funneling people to the rim to deal with the Wildcats’ shot-blockers. But in this game, Kentucky needs to defend with a turnover mindset. They come in bunches for the Hoosiers, sometimes, and could allow Kentucky to get some separation in the game.

4. DRIBBLE AND DRIVE. At any given time, Indiana is going to have a couple of players on the court who may not be able to handle Kentucky’s drivers. The mid-range game, the Tyler Ulis floaters, the drives into the paint for lobs, Isaiah Briscoe taking it to the rim, these should be the Wildcats’ staples against Indiana. The good thing for Kentucky is that they have been all year.

5. TRANSITION DEFENSE. There have been games this season in which Kentucky got caught flat-footed against teams that wanted to run. This can’t be one of them. Indiana is going to look to push the pace. If Kentucky presses, Indiana will attack it and look for threes in transition. Whatever the case, Kentucky can’t allow good looks on the break.

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