Three Keys to Kentucky’s Success Against Duke

Posted by David Changas on November 17th, 2015

The college basketball season may only be a few days old but that doesn’t mean we have to wait long for a matchup of true heavyweights. Unlike its gridiron counterpart, teams don’t risk a shot at a national championship with an early-season loss, which is why fans will be treated to a clash of the titans when Kentucky battles Duke in Chicago at the Champions Classic. It’s a matchup of schools — wearing the same jerseys but with many different faces — that appeared destined to play each other for last year’s national title, a fate that was ultimately derailed by the undefeated Wildcats’ stunning loss to Wisconsin in the national semifinals. In the absence of Calipari’s crew on the floor during championship Monday in Indianapolis, the Blue Devils captured a crown that for so many months appeared Kentucky’s to lose. The Wildcats will get a shot at some measure of redemption tonight, despite the fact that this game will include only a few of the players who participated in last year’s Final Four.

Kentucky will have to control Duke's Grayson Allen, who is off to a hot start. (Getty).

Kentucky will have to control Duke’s Grayson Allen, who is off to a hot start. (Getty)

Let’s take a quick look at three keys to Kentucky’s chances of earning a mid-November win that will ultimately look very good come March:

  1. Control Grayson Allen. The bouncy sophomore guard enjoyed his coming-out party at last season’s Final Four, making the all-tournament team after being little more than a bit player for most of the season. Now, acting as one of the new leaders of Mike Krzyzewski‘s squad, Allen has started the season with a bang, averaging 27 points per game in wins over Siena and Bryant. Clearly the confidence that he gained last April has carried over to this season. Kentucky will have to neutralize his slashing and shooting game — the Wildcats can use a combination of athletic players, including Jamal Murray, Derek Willis, and Alex Poythress to slow him down. With many of the other Blue Devils still learning their offensive roles, Duke could be in for a long night if Kentucky can limit his production.
  2. Youth over experience in the paint. Duke has seniors Marshall Plumlee and Amile Jefferson manning the frontcourt. Kentucky’s only returnee in the post is junior Marcus Lee, but the Wildcats also have phenomenal freshman Skal Labissiere on their side. He leads the team in scoring and enters this game coming off a dominant performance against NJIT in which he scored 26 points in only 21 minutes of action. While the Blue Devils have more experience up front, the Wildcats have more talent and athleticism there. If the freshman phenomenon — projected as a top-three pick in next year’s NBA Draft — proves ready for prime time, Kentucky will have a great chance to come out of Chicago tonight with the win.
  3. Good defense beats good offense. It’s still very early, but this game is a matchup between the nation’s most efficient offensive team (Duke) and defensive club (Kentucky), according to KenPom. For the Wildcats to prevail, they will have to find a way to slow down the Blue Devils’ offense. They will need to keep not only Allen and sensational freshman Brandon Ingram in check, but also cannot allow Duke’s role players — guys like Jefferson, Matt Jones, and Luke Kennard — to get too much done in cleanup mode. Much like last year, Kentucky has the size and athleticism to become an exceptional defensive team and the Wildcats will need to show their defensive wares if they are to get the win in Chicago.
David Changas (166 Posts)

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