We have hit the basketball slow season and time is creeping along ever so slowly. Thankfully there is a game just around the corner, with Kentucky facing Virginia Tech on Saturday afternoon.
Here are the three keys to this one:
Slow down the Virginia Tech offense
Head coach Buzz Williams has the Hokies playing a brand of basketball that has not often been seen in Blacksburg. The talented Hokies are 9-1 on the season and it is their offense that has been doing most of the heavy lifting to drive them to that record.
Virginia Tech averages an insane 96.2 points per game. They have passed 100 points on three occasions and have scored more than 90 points four other times. Admittedly they have yet to face a defense with the talent and length of Kentucky, but scoring becomes a habit and this Virginia Tech squad certainly knows how to score.
Kentucky cannot focus on just one player to stem the scoring flow. The Hokies have four players averaging double-digits, led by Justin Bibbs (17.5) and Ahmed Hill (16.6). John Calipari will need his defense to be on point in this game.
Win the battle of the cousins
Cousins Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will be on opposite sides of the court on Saturday. The two freshmen play important roles for their respective squads, with Alexander-Walker hoping to lead his Virginia Tech team to an upset win in Rupp Arena.
The game’s outcome won’t just rely on these two players, but it is a battle that will matter in the outcome. Alexander-Walker is third on the Hokies team in scoring with 14.4 points per game and he has shown the ability to put up 20+ points on a night if properly motivated. His 47.4 percent clip from three-point range is also a worry.
Gilgeous-Alexander is fourth in scoring for the Wildcats with 10.1 points per game. His biggest asset to the team though might be his ability to defend and play big minutes as his 28.2 minutes per game is the second highest on the squad. The Wildcats need their cousin to be the dominant one this weekend.
Use the length defensively
This game is going to be a great test to see where Kentucky is and how the team performs against an elite scoring offense.
We have heard all season long how Kentucky is as long as anyone in the country and now we will get a chance to see that play out on the court. Of Kentucky’s top eight players in minutes per game, only 6-foot guard Quade Green stands shorter than 6-foot-5. That those tall players all seem to have above average wingspans for their height only adds to their defensive presence.
Kentucky will get its chances on offense purely because of the style Virginia Tech plays. What the Wildcats have to do is make those shots, then use their size and athleticism on defense to play passing lanes and get in the faces of the Hokies’ shooters.