With Saturday's game against Kentucky just around the corner, we thought it was a good time to check in our with friend Truzenzuzex from the wonderful blog A Sea of Blue for a pre-game scouting report. As always, he has provided a wealth of insight into the year's Wildcats team. And to view our answers to Truzenzuzex's questions, click here. Many thanks, Truzenzuzex.
Give us a quick scouting report on this year's Kentucky team: strengths, weaknesses, etc.
Strengths: Defense, particularly inside. Kentucky currently ranks 3rd in the nation in 2-point defense, and 12th overall. UK is also a very good 2-point shooting team, ranking tenth in the nation in 2-point FG%. Blocked shots are also a tremendous strength, where the 'Cats rank 3rd in the nation. Kentucky is also the fourth best free throw shooting team in the land.
Weaknesses: UK's biggest weakness is ballhandling. UK has one of the worst turnover percentages in Division I at 326th in the country. Obviously, this has a very serious impact on UK's offensive efficiency. Kentucky is a very average three-point defensive club, and not a particularly good 3-point shooting team. The Wildcats also tend to depend way too much on Patrick Patterson and Jodie Meeks for scoring, although that changed dramatically against Florida. It remains to be seen if this is a trend, or just a blip.
How satisfied or unsatisfied are Kentucky fans with Billy Gillispie?
It's a mixed bag. Gillispie's very opaque and almost incomprehensible coaching style has frustrated a good number of Wildcat fans. Like Tubby Smith, he is not terribly comfortable with the media, and often shows it with terse and sometimes awkward or even insulting replies to questions. Gillispie is the kind of coach that considers simplicty a virtue, almost to the point where it actually becomes detrimental.
Gillispie tries very hard to be honest and straightforward, but has difficulty expressing himself sufficiently to satisfy the detail-hungry Kentucky fan base. He is a no-nonsense person and everyone here appreciates that, but his awkwardness in public distracts attention away from his sincere efforts to field a winning team. He hasn't yet found his comfort zone here in the Bluegrass, although he is trying very hard and having some hard-won success. But it seems that with every success comes a setback, which is pretty typical of a relatively inexperienced coach getting his first high-profile job.
In your opinion, how does the season Jodie Meeks is having rank among the all-time performances by a Wildcat player?
At this point in the season, it is way up there. It looks to me like he will easily eclipse Jamal Mashburn's currently second-place scoring record in fewer games (unless UK goes a lot deeper in the tournament than I think they will). Issel's record of 948 points in 1969-70 isn't even safe, although his scoring average almost certainly is unless Meeks goes nuts in the remaining games.
Has this year's team performed below, at or above your expectations?
Just a tiny bit below. I would not have expected a 3-game losing skid like we have had in conference. In fact, I didn't expect us to lose more than three games in SEC play. While that is certainly still possible, I consider five a much more likely figure.
Crystal-ball time: What's your prediction for Saturday's game and for the rest of Kentucky's season?
If Fortson is still unavailable and Patterson is, I expect UK to win handlily. If both Patterson and Fortson are unavailable, I expect UK to win a close one. If both Patterson and Fortson are available, I expect it to be very close, even a toss-up. Based on current intel, I would pick UK 70-65.