Can we win this game?
It's a tough question to get excited about. It's tough because this isn't just the top ranked team in the nation, it's a squad that has evoked positive comparisons to some of the best college teams ever. A team that boatraced #5 (at the time) Kansas by 32 en route to a unified expression by non-Kentucky fans across the country. A group that utilizes a devastating platoon system, showing off an embarrassment of riches that goes 10 deep*. Statistically one of the most athletic, most proficient defensive teams in the history of college basketball. By far the most difficult test we have this season.
*Nine deep, ever since Alex Poythress tore his ACL in practice on December 12th
So I ask again... can we win this game?
Yes. We can. I'm not saying we will, but I'm saying it's possible. Here's why.
1) We usually show up at home
Our road woes are well documented. Well documented. Very, very, well documented. Just the most documentation. Yes, that's four unique links to absolute beatings on the road over the last twelve months.
But our home success? Not as well documented. Y'all, we've had some good wins at Reed. Sneaky good. Consider the following top-half home wins over the past couple of years (final SEC ranking in parenthesis)
- Ole Miss (2)
- Missouri (5)
- Arkansas (7)
- Tennessee (4)
- Arkansas (5)
- LSU (7)
I know these aren't huge wins, but they're solid. Solid wins against good competition. And when added to our 15-2 record in the last seventeen at Reed, they seem to point towards a spirited effort.
2) Kentucky looked mortal on Tuesday
There's no other way to say this: Ole Miss walked into Rupp and punched Kentucky in the mouth. The Wildcats, to their credit, eventually got off the mat and notched the win. But their air of invincibility was punctured ever so slightly, especially when you consider that the win was aided by late cramping problems for Stefan Moody, who was the Rebels' best player on the evening.
The rest of the SEC took notice, and the Ags get the next bite at the apple. Sure, it might lead to a pissed off Kentucky team looking for blood. But Texas A&M now has a game tape full of repeated success against this vaunted Wildcat defense. It's basically the key to the kingdom. And it can't hurt.
3) The law of averages has to help us. Eventually.
We have NOT shot well lately. Here's a snapshot from our last three games:
- 3PT: 11-50 (22 %)
- FG: 58-152 (38%)
- FT: 40-55 (72%)
- [re-checks free throw numbers]
- [checks them a third time]
So in an interesting, unexpected narrative shift, free throws no longer seem to be the problem. Just keep doing you at the stripe, guys. But our outside shooting... not so much. So again, I plead to the law of averages. Please. Please help us on Saturday. We're not going to get many inside looks, so we're ready to cash those chips. Bombs away.
I'm not going to predict an A&M victory. Can't do it. Wouldn't be prudent. But I do think we'll hang tough, and we just might see some noise in those creaky Reed Arena walls. Spirit will definitely not be in short supply.
Height, however, will be in very short supply. Kentucky is just too tall and athletic. That height advantage will be our undoing over the course of 40 minutes, and I see the Cats pulling away in the latter stages of the 2nd half. They won't coast, but they won't be seriously threatened.
Of course, there's one more thing I should point out