Kentucky Wildcats Preview Capsule
Record: 26-1 (11-1)
Season Thus Far: When we last saw Kentucky, their players were running for cover as our fans rushed the court after a historic upset over the then-top-ranked 'Cats. Since then, while the Gamecocks have failed to live up to the promise of that upset, Kentucky has remained in the running for a top seed in the NCAA tournament. Kentucky has won seven straight since then, including three against ranked Tennessee Volunteers and Vanderbilt Commodores teams. Indeed, the young 'Cats have gotten better with experience, particularly on defense. John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins continue to come into their own, and both have likely passed Devan Downey in SEC Player of the Year talks. In sum, all is well in the Bluegrass State.
What to Expect: Last time we played Kentucky, our big men remarkably played over their heads, getting lots of hustle points and big defensive plays against a Kentucky front line that should in theory have dominated the game. The story of this game will likely be whether the same occurs again. Since the Kentucky game, we've struggled against front lines far inferior to Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins, and unless our guys really transcend themselves once again, I think we're going to have a lot of trouble with those two, both of whom have played well lately.
Another matchup to watch will, of course, be Devan Downey versus whoever the 'Cats put on him, likely Eric Bledsoe for the majority of the night. Last time around, Bledsoe and Co. did a decent job of containing Downey, but Downey got to the line frequently and managed to make some incredible shots late in the game. Lately, Downey hasn't been playing as well, partially due to an injured ankle. It will be interesting to see how the ankle is feeling and whether Downey is ready to carry the team again.
Prediction: I hate to say it, but this game is looking pretty grim. It's always possible that play an inspired game, keep it close, and have a chance for some magic late. However, if both teams play the way they've been playing since they last met, this one shouldn't be close, and in fact could get really ugly. I'm leaning towards the latter, and predict a 20-25 point Kentucky victory.