Matchup Breakdown: Indiana-Kentucky

With Indiana’s matchup with the No. 1 team in the country fast approaching, we put the Wildcats and the Hoosiers head-to-head, position-by-position, in our matchup breakdown.

Kentucky point guard Marquis Teague vs. Indiana point guard Jordan Hulls

Teague: 10.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 4.1 apg, 1.8 spg, 0.5 bpg, 2.9 tpg, .444 FG%
Hulls:
11.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.6 tpg, .571 FG%

As talented as Teague is and has proven to be in flashes this season, he’s also shown a tendency to try to do too much in Kentucky’s starting lineup of McDonald’s All-Americans. Teague has been a Jekyll-and-Hyde act this season, showing a terrible assist-to-turnover ratio in his first few games, but bouncing back for a pretty solid ratio in his last few games. But in this game, as Teague returns home to Indiana, there’s an awful lot on the line for him — something he most definitely recognizes. He has undeniable speed and quickness, can get to the hoop, and can distribute better than most point guards in the country when he’s on his game. But will he be on his game in this one? We’ll have to wait and see.

Hulls has shown an ability to shoot like he has ice in his veins, and he’ll need to do exactly that to take over such a high-pressure game. Kentucky’s defense is more dominant inside the 3-point line than beyond, and that’s where Hulls does his best work. If he can get open on ball screens and get loose of Teague, he can keep Indiana in this game. The key in this matchup will be if Hulls can get inside Teague’s head early. If he can, well, this matchup might be a wash.

Kentucky shooting guard Doron Lamb vs. Indiana shooting guard Verdell Jones

Lamb: 14.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.8 apg, 0.6 spg, 0.1 bpg, 1.0 tpg, .474 FG%
Jones: 9.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.0 spg, 0.4 bpg, 2.6 tpg, .426 FG%

For as much as Jones has been a polarizing figure on Indiana’s basketball team for years now, his recent performances have been much less mistake-prone, and he’s been one of the best distributors the Hoosiers have had on the floor this season. With Lamb though, a wing who would normally be guarded by Victor Oladipo (if Michael Kidd-Gilchrist didn’t exist), Jones will have to defend one of the better shooters he’s seen all season long. Lamb can hit open jump shots with some serious consistency, and if Jones gives him too much space or is caught up by ball screens, then Lamb might blow up. But it might be a good sign for Indiana that Lamb is shooting from beyond the arc, because that means Indiana is keeping the ball out of the post.

Either way, if Jones forces up shots in this one, Lamb is a good enough defender that it could really hurt the Hoosiers’ gameplan. We might not see Jones score many points in this game, but if he can distribute like he has in team-leading fashion all season, he might be able to create open shots for his teammates while Kentucky collapses on his dribble drives in the paint.

Kentucky wing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist vs. Indiana wing Victor Oladipo

Kidd-Gilchrist: 12.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.6 spg, 1.1 bpg, 2.6 tpg, .478 FG%
Oladipo:
12.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.6 apg, 2.0 spg, 0.4 bpg, 1.9 tpg, .537 FG%

Victor Oladipo has come a long way in his defensive efforts this season and has, on multiple occasions, completely shut down the opponent’s best player. But will he be able to do that against someone like Kidd-Gilchrist? Kidd-Gilchrist is a bigger target than most of the guys Oladipo has guarded this season — at 6-7, 232 lbs — and he works well in the paint and on the perimeter. If Oladipo is going to be successful, he’ll have to show a more diverse defensive repertoire than he has for much of the season. Kidd-Gilchrist has been prone to turnovers this season, similar to Teague, and luckily for Indiana, Oladipo has been one of the best on Indiana’s roster at creating offense from turnovers and defense.

Offensively, Oladipo has been hot and cold this season, and it’s hard to tell which Victor will be on offense in this game. Driving to the basket — Oladipo’s signature offensive strategy — will come few and far between with Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones in the post, and he may have to sink a few shots from the perimeter to make a splash on offense. But Kidd-Gilchrist is a solid defender, and Oladipo could be taken out of this game quickly if he doesn’t play one of his better games of the season.

Kentucky forward Terrence Jones vs. Indiana forward Christian Watford

Jones: 15.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.4 spg, 2.5 bpg, 1.6 tpg, .494 FG%

Watford: 10.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.3 apg, 0.5 spg, 0.5 bpg, 2.0 tpg, .429 FG%

Jones passed up a chance to be a first-round NBA draft pick to return to Kentucky and was named a preseason All-American by most publications, so Kentucky would appear to have the clear edge here. However, one of the big reasons the Hoosiers were able to stay with Kentucky last season for most of the first half before falling 81-62 was that Watford held Jones to 3-for-11 shooting and had 19 points and nine rebounds himself in one of his best outings of the season. Jones is a year more polished and Watford hasn’t been nearly as consistent as he was in December of last year, but that still shows he’s capable of providing some resistance. Holding the 6-foot-9, 252-pounder down for a second year in a row is a tall order, however.

Kentucky forward Anthony Davis vs. Indiana forward Cody Zeller

Davis: 12.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.4 spg, 4.5 bpg, 1.5 tpg, .672 FG%
Zeller:
15.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 0.8 apg, 2.6 spg, 1.6 bpg, 1.5 tpg, .677 FG%

In one of the best matchups of freshmen talent that the country will see all season long, two forwards of very similar styles and very similar freakish lengths will face off. Zeller is an obviously more proficient scorer and is significantly more poised when he’s maneuvering around the basket. But Davis is a more freakish athlete, averaging almost five blocks per game. Those two strengths will collide in this game, as Davis’s defense could very well neutralize Zeller’s offense and vice-versa. Zeller will need to box out better than he has all season against one of the nation’s best rebounders, and Davis will need to keep grounded defensively to slow Zeller’s quick feet in the paint.

This matchup is a wash, through and through. Neither have a big enough sample size against tough competition. Tyler Zeller, Cody’s brother, did a pretty good job at stopping Davis when Kentucky took down North Carolina, but even Cody admitted he hasn’t spoken to his brother about the matchup. If one of these guys can shut down the other, it will go a long way in deciding this game.

Bench

The Hoosiers and Wildcats both have rotations of seven men who average at least 10 minutes per game. The Wildcats bring 6-8, 235-pound senior swingman Darius Miller, the last holdover from the Billy Gillespie era, off the bench. He’s been a glue guy for Kentucky’s bands of one-and-dones for each of the past three seasons, and averages 9.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game. After that, they go to freshman Kyle Wiltjer, a 6-foot-9, 239-pound McDonald’s All-American from Portland, Ore. Wiltjer is known for his jump shot, but he’s struggled so far, shooting just 26.7 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. The Wildcats don’t go much deeper than that however. Eloy Vargas, a 6-foot-11, junior college transfer, averages 1.9 points and 3.6 rebounds in 8.3 minutes per game, but no one else on the squad averages more than five minutes.

The Hoosiers counter with sophomore swingman Will Sheehey (11.8 points, 3.1 rebounds) and power forward Derek Elston (6.1 points, 3.1 rebounds) as their substitutes, but they can go much deeper with role players. Senior Daniel Moore provides pesky perimeter defense and good point guard play. Freshman Remy Abell can guard point guards and wings, and though his jumper is suspect, he can get to the basket as well as anyone on the squad. Senior Matt Roth and freshman Austin Etherington give the Hoosiers two more perimeter shooters, and senior Tom Pritchard gives them a wider body who can be used for post defense.

7 comments

  1. 1ST Semester (Pre Big Ten Season) Final tomorrow. They and we will see how good they are (both mentally and physically in basketball) right now. This game isn’t determinative of the entire season but it’s a Big Deal. I’m not interested in a ‘moral’ victory.

  2. Why would Kentucky “collapse on his (Jones) dribble drives to the paint”???

    VJ3 has a terrible time even getting into the paint, much less to the rim, and when he does HE USUALLY collapses and turns the ball over. Why UK would give any extra attention to a Jones dribble-drive attempt is beyond me.

    I am getting more pessimistic as the game draws closer… it sucks! Please don’t choke Verdell.

    I am resting my lungs in anticipation of yelling at the refs for 2 straight hours…

    Is anyone else wearing their XXXL #3 DJ White crimson jersey today?

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