Kentucky Basketball has the chance to guarantee that Gonzaga needs the auto bid for the NCAA Tournament with a win this weekend over the WCC juggernaut.
After admittedly a rough week prior, Kentucky Basketball seemingly has gotten back on track, at least offensively. They destroyed Vanderbilt earlier this week, winning 109-77. They were without a couple of players, which has been the theme all season.
Still, the massive depth advantage they have has proven vital. And they look to make it a new winning streak, hosting the Gonzaga Bulldogs this Saturday. It's a big game for the mid-major power, who are still looking for a signature win for their at-large resume. Here are the keys to the Wildcats making sure that doesn't happen.
1. 3-point defense
One area of weakness that Kentucky Basketball needs to address is on defense, especially from three-point range. They rank near the bottom nationally at 3s allowed, giving up nearly nine a game on 27 attempts. If it wasn't for the fact that the SEC isn't a great shooting league, they'd be in more trouble.
The good news is that three-point offense happens to be Gonzaga's weakness. They only make seven a game at 34% but if you take away the games against the bad teams in the WCC, the Bulldogs actually rank towards the bottom in the country. Against good teams, they're not able to make shots from deep. Kentucky just needs to continue that pattern on Saturday.
2. Defending both Graham Ike... and Braden Huff
One strength that Gonzaga does have offensively is making shots inside the arc. As usual, the Bulldogs are 9th in the country at 2-point FG% with 59%. They're led by Graham Ike, who averages 15.0 ppg and 7.3 rpg and makes 60% of his shots. Kentucky will need to slow him down and the big for the matchup should be Ugonna Onyenso, a shot-blocking and physical big man.
The other player to watch is Huff, a redshirt freshman who averages 10.8 ppg off the bench and has seven games with at least 17+ points. However, all of them came against bad teams and versus top-100 opponents, he's been just about unplayable. With how much depth Kentucky has and Ike likely not going to play more than 32 minutes in this fast-paced battle, they're going to need to play Huff. If he breaks out for a big game, the Wildcats may have some trouble on its hands.
3. Exploiting the advantage at the 3-spot
Due to the lack of depth on the roster, Gonzaga recently placed forward Ben Gregg into the starting lineup, moving Anton Watson to the small forward position. He's one of the more versatile players in the country and is a quality defender but it's still going to be a tough task for him to guard the 6'5 Antonio Reeves, who leads Kentucky with 19.7 ppg on 44% three-point shooting.
Expect Kentucky to use a ton of screens to force Watson and Gregg into difficult perimeter matchups. This could be a game for Reeves or even Justin Edwards to feast. It's the one area Gonzaga doesn't have a good gameplan and as long as they don't take bad shots, Kentucky should use the wing to its advantage for all 40 minutes.