"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Know your opponent: a fan's perspective on the Kentucky Wildcats

.......ah, time to go back to one of our favorite formulas here at Cracked Sidewalks, the venerable 'know your opponent' Q/A. Today we're pleased to welcome Brandon Eaves, a die-hard Kentucky basketball fan who was kind enough to get us smart on the Wildcats. Brandon posts regularly on TheCatsDomain - - here u go.......

Like MU, UK looks to be a perimeter-oriented team. Can you describe their style of play?
UK is a team that really focuses on defense first and foremost. Offensively, UK likes to keep to game in the 60-70 point range. They try to limit the number of possessions that each team has and are deliberate in their half court sets and will wait until the shot clock gets under 10 seconds before executing their play. They are perimeter oriented to the degree in that they like to start their offense from there but they aren’t really a 3-point shooting team primarily. UK will take the 3 when it’s open but they will usually look to take the ball to the basket first and foremost. Overall, the style of UK could be described as precision based. The Wildcats take a lot of time setting up their plays, but it doesn’t feel like they are slowing the game down. You’ll see what I mean on Thursday.

Seniors Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford lead the Wildcats in scoring, and are both very efficient offensive players. What should MU look for from the Wildcats' backcourt aces?
Bradley is the brains and Crawford is the muscle. Another way to say it is that Bradley is the trigger and Crawford is the bullet. With Bradley you will see a guy who is very smooth, very collected, and very smart. He is an excellent ball handler, solid scorer, and great passer. Nearly everything UK does on offense will run through Bradley. He has the ability to drive to the basket and hit from the outside. There have been games where he single-handedly was the reason UK won the game. He is a scorer but he will look for the assist first.

Joe Crawford is the type of player that you really never want to have to leave your program. Joe is a guy that will very quietly put 35 points on you if you don’t keep him in check; and if you do try to keep in him check he will still go for 24 points against you. He is not as skilled of a ball handler as Bradley, but he is a much more dominant scoring threat and he will get in the mix of things and pull out a fair share of rebounds. He is a well built, stocky, guard that only needs a small sliver of space to burn his defender. He can hit the 3 from about 25 feet consistently so teams need to put someone on him all the time. Zone defenses will get torn apart if Crawford isn’t specifically targeted.

Crawford and Bradley are the stars of the team. You should expect to see both of them handle the ball a lot and they will most likely play almost all of the game.

What kind of opponent do the Wildcats have the the most success against?
It’s kind of hard to say. UK has played against several types of strategies this season and they have had success in the second half of the season after the team came together. However, teams that rely heavily on one or two people to be the scorers or the main playmakers generally have a tough time against UK.

What kind of opponents can make the Wildcats struggle?
Teams that like to get up and down the court and score in the 80-90 and up point range tend to give UK problems. UK doesn’t have a very deep bench so keeping players as fresh as they can be is a priority for UK.

Despite losing losing Patrick Patterson, the Wildcats didn't miss a beat down the stretch. Did the team adapt its style of play after Patterson was lost for the season?
They did. When Patterson was in the game the idea was to go to Patterson first and let him dominate the inside. Now that Patterson is out, the idea is for everything to start with Bradley or Crawford. UK went from an inside-out mentality to an outside-in mentality. It seems to have worked for them.

We've talked about the stars - - is there another player on the UK roster that might surprise everybody with a breakthrough performance on Thursday?
Keep an eye on Perry Stevenson and Derrick Jasper. Stevenson will come in off the bench but he is a tremendous shot blocker with his long arms and lanky body. Jasper is a guy that has been streaky this season, but if he’s on he’s fantastic. Stevenson is also very good at blocking free throws, so you guys better be ready! :-)

Brandon, thanks for your time!


Anonymous said...

"Stevenson is also very good at blocking free throws :) "

What a hoot. First time I've read those words in the same sentence.

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Anonymous said...

UK fan here. This is one of the best sports blogs I have seen. Keep up the great work. I am worried about Marquette, especially considering how we've fared against them the last couple of times in the tourney, but I think this match up is closer than a 6/11 seed would seem to indicate and will probably go down to the wire.

Anonymous said...

Another UK fan great blog going on here. My only comment is that UK has trouble with teams that like to get up the floor and score a lot of points. Kinda like Tennessee who we played very well and were very successful keeping it a slow paced half court game.