Kentucky vs. Baylor 10pm on ESPN
By: Randy Newman
Tonight the Cats face Baylor who is ranked 20th in the nation. The game is being played in Dallas at Cowboy Stadium which is also the site of the Final Four this year. Cal set this game up to get his team a chance to play in the same settings as the Final Four and to play a quality opponent.
Baylor comes into the game owning a 7-1 record with their lone loss being a 74-67 setback to fourth ranked Syracuse. They almost exclusively play zone which is something the Cats are becoming increasingly familiar with. Their size matches up better with the Cats than any team UK has played up to this point. Cory Jefferson is a 6'9 SR that leads them in scoring with 13.5 a game and in rebounding at 8.8 per game. The battle between him and Julius Randle should be a good one.
Isaiah Austin is the other big interior presence for Baylor. He is a 7'1 sophomore that averages 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 3.3 block per game. He was a highly ranked recruit that underperformed a bit as a freshman. The Cats got some bulletin board material from him yesterday when he said the following to the Dallas Morning News
“Coming out of high school, everyone wants to go with the hype,” he said. “Kentucky was the hype. … I made the best decision for me coming here. Coach [Scott] Drew is just as great a coach as coach [John] Calipari. We have just as great as faculty and staff. … Kentucky is not better than us in any way, shape or form.”
That may not have been the wisest thing to say before playing a team like Kentucky. Austin is 1-0 in his career against UK after knocking the Cats off in Rupp last season. He will match up with Willie Cauley-Stein and may be one of the only players in the nation with the length and athleticism to match Willie. With that said he does not have half the motor that Cauley-Stein plays with. It is for that reason he continues to be an underachiever. Aaron Harrison retweeted an article with the quotes from Austin last night so the Cats are aware of what was said.
Brady Heslip is a shooting guard that can shoot the ball extremely well from three. So far this season he has shot 52% from beyond the arc so it would behoove the Cats to stay close to him at all times.
The head coach of Baylor is Scott Drew and he has been the most successful coach in their history. His success has been tied to his ability to recruit at a very high level. With that said he seems to struggle a bit to capitalize on all the talent he has available.
It will be a homecoming game for Julius Randle who is from Dallas and for the Harrison twins who are from Texas. For Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress it is a chance to get some revenge on the team that ended the Cats 54 game home winning streak in Rupp last season.
This game is a great test for the Cats to play an NCAA tournament caliber team on a big stage. If the Cats play this game with the intensity they showed against Providence it will be very tough for Baylor to win. Thanks to the comments by Austin I expect UK to come out ready to play from the tip and look to make a statement in the game. My score prediction is 81-72 with the Cats dominating Baylor in the paint. A bonus prediction is that Julius Randle is going to have a monster game. One final prognostication is that Mr. Austin will find out that Kentucky may be a little better than he thought.