A Closer Roundtable Look: Indiana vs. Kentucky

Posted by Ryan Terpstra on March 23rd, 2012

Indiana will face Kentucky Friday night in what is one of the most interesting Sweet Sixteen games in the NCAA tournament.  The Hoosiers handed the Wildcats their only regular season loss back on December 10 thanks to a last-second three by Christian Watford.  In the rematch, the stakes are higher, with a spot in the Elite Eight awaiting the winner.  Who will that winner be?  Big Ten micrositers Joey Nowak (@joeynowak) and Ryan Terpstra (@terphimself) debate.

Indiana and Kentucky collide for the second time this year in the Sweet Sixteen (photo: College Sports Madness)

1.  Anthony Davis versus Cody Zeller.  Can Indiana come out on top of this matchup again?

  • Ryan:  In the first matchup of the freshman big men, Cody Zeller clearly came out on top.  He logged 37 minutes, scored 11 points, and grabbed seven rebounds.  Davis, meanwhile, was saddled with foul trouble for most of the game, and finished with just six points in 24 minutes.  IU will certainly try to attack Davis, because removing his defensive impact from the game opens up opportunities for Zeller to find success inside, and guards like Victor Oladipo to take the ball to the basket.  However, Davis seems to have quickly learned his lesson, having not even committed four fouls in a game since that loss to Indiana.  He only has picked up two personal fouls all tournament, and has played 76 minutes in the two games.  Odds are that he’ll be on the floor, and if he is, advantage Kentucky.
  • Joey: What’s so remarkable about Anthony Davis is how he impacts the game in both small and large sample sizes. He’ll alter a shot on the defensive end or register a block, then run the floor and get a put-back or an easy alley-oop. Or, he might not fill the stat sheet that way, but can neutralize almost any big man in the country, alters shots from all over the floor and changes the way teams have to approach games on both ends. Zeller is fantastic because he’s just as polished, and runs the floor like a three or a four for Indiana. Davis has advantage in the half-court setting, so if Indiana is going to want to exploit the Kentucky big man and utilize their own freshman star, it’s gotta be on the break.

2.  What’s the key for the Hoosier defense to keep the explosive Wildcat offense in check?

  • Joey: I think it’s gotta be Terrence Jones. I know it seems silly to point to an All-American caliber player who many figured to be one of the best players in the nation entering this season, but he has become an X-factor of sorts for Kentucky. When he is on — and he is capable of taking over a game and registering a double-double on any given night — the Wildcats are practically unbeatable. If Jones gets something like his line against Western Kentucky (22 points, 10 rebounds), the Wildcats will roll. If he has something more like what he had against Indiana the first time around (four points, one rebound, six turnovers), the Hoosiers can level the playing field.
  • Ryan:  I remember John Calipari talking to the media after Kentucky lost in the SEC tournament, and he said that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was their most important player, so I’m going to go with the coach here.  Indiana will probably try and slow him down with 6’9″ Christian Watford, who can defend four positions on the floor.  In the previous matchup, Kidd-Gilchrist was 9-12 from the field and scored 18 points.  There’s no way the Hoosier defense can allow him to be that efficient.  Kentucky can score from a variety of spots in their lineup, but if I’m Tom Crean, I tell my defense to make sure that Kidd-Gilchrist has a miserable night.

3.  Who could be a darkhorse contributor for Indiana in this game?

  • Ryan: UK is going to go right at him on the defensive end, so I think that Jordan Hulls better have his shot going for the Hoosiers.  Obviously, guys like Zeller and Watford are going to get attention, and Hulls is the kind of streaky shooter that can swing a tournament game with a couple of big-time threes.  He has plenty of confidence, and I have a feeling he’ll get some open looks.  If he can knock down three or four long guns, and finish in the range of 15-17 points, that’ll go a long way for Indiana in trying to score the upset.
  • Joey: There’s nobody on Indiana’s roster better suited to run with Kentucky than Victor Oladipo. At 6’5″, 214 pounds, he’s big-bodied for a guard. But he’s an SEC-type player in terms of athleticism playing in the Big Ten, where he’s been able to flaunt that skill set. Kentucky has a roster full of players with Oladipo’s athletic acumen, but he has the capability to give them fits on both ends if he can utilize his burst and athleticism without playing out of control.

4.  Since everybody loves predictions this time of year, how do you see this game going?

  • Joey: I just have a hard time believing Indiana can recapture the magic from Assembly Hall on December 10. For one thing, the Hoosiers aren’t the same team away from Bloomington, and they’re going up against the toughest neutral court opposing crowd in Big Blue. The loss of Verdell Jones III really hurts IU here too, because the Hoosiers need all the backcourt athleticism they can muster. It helps to have an athlete like Oladipo, a talented big man like Zeller who runs the floor, and a coach in Tom Crean who is focused on preparation and defensive intensity. But this Kentucky team has a different eye of the tiger that past John Calipari squads haven’t had, and I don’t see lightning striking twice. Let’s say: Kentucky 83, Indiana 74.
  • Ryan: Indiana is a great story this season because no one expected the program to undergo the struggles that they had to endure during Tom Crean’s first few years. Now IU is back to where they belong in the hearts and minds of their fans, and here is a great opportunity to officially announce their return as a force in college basketball once again.  The problem is that Kentucky is absolutely loaded, and in addition to that, they have the revenge factor.  There is no sneaking up on the Wildcats this time.  They’ll be out for blood, and Indiana will not have the friendly confines of their home court to enjoy if things start to go bad.  The Hoosiers can certainly hang with UK in this one, but I don’t think they’ll be able to close.  I’ll predict: Kentucky 73, Indiana 66.
Ryan Terpstra (28 Posts)

Ryan Terpstra is an on-air personality for ESPN 96.1 FM in Grand Rapids, MI. Follow him on Twitter @TerpHimself

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