It's being called the biggest home game in Columbia in a decade and overall probably the biggest since we played the Gators in the SEC Tournament Finals a few years back. And why not buy into the hype? It's not often that we're playing for championships around here, and with Florida's loss to LSU last night, this game is for first in the East. Moreover, with a manageable schedule remaining after this game, there's no reason to believe that we can't hang on for the divisional title if we win tonight. And there's just as much at stake for the Cats, who will be trying to stake their own claim to the title. Both teams are also in need of NCAAs resume-building wins, especially with Providence playing their way onto the bubble last night. Add all that to the fact that the game these two played earlier in the season was the height of basketball drama, and you've got a big game tonight.
To win, we need to do the things I mentioned here: try to slow down Patterson and Perry Stevenson and contain Meeks. Our guards did well against Meeks in the first matchup, but the big guys will be tougher. Expect us to try to block entry passes to Patterson and Stevenson and to double team Patterson if he gets the ball on the block. The way this game goes tonight could very well depend on what happens when we double team Patterson; if we can keep him from dumping off to an open teammate or, better yet, force turnovers or bad shots, we could run away with this game, as the Kentucky offense will likely run through Patterson. In addition to Meeks, we'll have to watch out for super-frosh Darius Miller when we double Patterson. Miller, who had a slow start to the season, has begun to live up to his potential in recent games, and could provide a go-to guy for the Cats if he can get open for three or can make good cuts to the basket while his more well-known buddies are getting most of the attention from us.
Offensively, the key is for Downey to create off the dribble. Kentucky won't be able to slow him down, and if he can consistently make shots in the lane, find open guys for three on the perimeter, or dump to the big guys, we can score plenty of points against the Cats.
Check out Leftover Hot Dog, College Hoops Net, and A Sea of Blue for some preview action. And check into the gamethread, which will hopefully be rumbling.