Well, here we go. UK is now 37-0 and the entire BBN is awaiting and realistically expecting #9. And as well they should. So far UK has looked like a runaway freight train in almost every facet.
They were disinterested versus Hampton and still won by 26. Against UC they started slowly missing multiple shots but their size, length and depth tormented the Bearcats in the second half. In the Sweet 16, much was made about the matchup with the West Virginia Mountaineers and their pressing, ballhawking attack. Even more was made about Bob Huggins being the nemesis of Coach Cal. Much ado about nothing.
UK literally obliterated them. It was over in the first 3 minutes when UK jumped out to an 18-2 lead. At that point the zebra’s took over and started calling a foul every 40 seconds. The game was unwatchable from then on. But what Bob Huggins had to endure was quite literally the biggest beatdown of his career. At one one point with 12 minutes to go in the second half the Mountaineers hadn’t reached 20 points scored for the game. In fact, at the same moment and time they were shooting 14% from the floor. It was ugly and it was over from the start.
Now UK gets the Notre Dame Fighting Irish who have been on an incredible roll since they stormed through the ACC tournament. Winners of their last 8 games, they face LONG ODDS and matchup problems at virtually every position on the floor versus the vastly more talented Cats.
For the purposes of giving BBL fans a precise breakdown and analysis position by position, we’ll begin at the guard position.
ND plays two guards virtually the entire game. Both are NBA prospects. Jerian Grant son of ex NBA baller Harvey Grant is an excellent college pg who can handle the ball and make shots off the dribble. He is athletic and ultra quick. Demetrius Jackson is also an excellent guard who can shoot it and break guys down off the dribble. But he is undersized. Even with ND’s guards breaking guys down, they still will be going up against a warrior class of tall timber inside with WCS, Towns, Dakari, Lee and Lyles.
UK has 4 guys that will be rotating on them defensively in Ulis, Booker and the twins. Grant and Jackson will be physically gassed playing nearly 40 minutes versus UK’s fresher guards. Not to mention they will need to play defense against a confidence brimming Booker. It will be interesting to see how Aaron Harrison is on Saturday with the finger sprain. Those kind of injuries can play havoc with a shooter. But all in all, the guards are a MAJOR ADVANTAGE for UK.
At the power forward position ND has Zach Auguste and off the bench with Bonzi Colson. Both guys are undersized and neither has a lot of physicality to hold their own versus UK’s 7 footer rotation. They also play an undersized wing at the 3 spot in Steve Vasturia. He can shoot it and has the ability to lure UK’s bigs away from the basket. But considering the wing UK will be using to guard him is is 6-10 (Lyles), there isn’t much of a risk of ND pulling away UK’s centers as they do against most teams they face.
ND also plays another guy spot minutes- VJ Beachem-a 6-8 187 pound forward who is totally physically outclassed. All three of these guys will be going up against the likes of Lyles, Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson. Not to mention having to deal with WCS and Karl Towns. If the WVU game proved anything it's that small teams supremely struggle against UK to get any good looks and even more importantly from a rebounding standpoint.
Mike Brey is a very good coach. His teams are cohesive and they play with a purpose. Unfortunately in this game they are undersized at every position. Their one great skill is scoring the ball and shooting from the perimeter due to excellent floor rotation, ball movement and spacing. The way UK plays defense and with their length, it would be shocking to see ND spread the floor and get easy threes. But as the NCAA tooney has shown time and time again, a team that can shoot it always has a punchers chance.
The biggest problem for ND however is defending UK themselves. Even if they get incredibly hot and UK is asleep defensively, how will they stop UK from scoring in both the half court? The truth is they can’t. They also have NO CHANCE to keep UK off the boards. Against WVU UK put up a wall around the perimeter. I see a deja vu situation versus the Irish.
In my opinion ND has less of a chance to beat UK than UC did. A better chance than WVU because they are much better shooters but they don’t intimidate you personnel wise. And their defense is nothing like UC’s or even WVU’s for that matter.
This game is an M&Mer in almost every conceivable fashion. You have to give ND a puncher’s chance. Plus if Aaron Harrison is out on Saturday, then that puts a lot of pressure on Booker to score 12-15 points. Anything is possible at the Regional Final Level, but UK would have to pull a FULL BLOWN POLYESTER SUIT for this game to even be under 10 points. ND does not rebound well enough, nor do they play the physical kind of defense to necessary to fluster UK. They can shoot the ball really well but against UK’s size and length? Doubtful.
I think this game is close for a Half. Maybe 30 minutes but only if ND is unconscious and UK is shooting 25% from the field. Which we all know is possible. If UK shows up however, plays defense and shoots 40%, this game could be another 15-20 point win. ND just doesn’t have any depth. They will be worn out with 10 minutes to go.
UK 79 - ND 67go back