The Wildcats made short work of a potential banana skin in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday. They destroyed Abilene Christian 79-44 and moved on to face a dangerous No. 7 seed in Wofford in the round of 32.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
Use the size
This is the second consecutive game where Kentucky will have a favorable size matchup.
The Wildcats will certainly miss the presence of the still injured PJ Washington, but even without his combination of height and speed they should have more than enough in the frontcourt to dominate the Terriers.
The combination of Reid Travis (6-foot-8), EJ Montgomery (6-foot-10), and Nick Richards (6-foot-11) will just be too much for a Wofford side that doesn’t have a single starter taller than 6-foot-9. This means that Kentucky should pound the ball into the post and be especially aggressive on the glass to force second chance opportunities.
Stop Fletcher Magee
We said in the ACU preview that these lower seeded teams in the early rounds of the tournament would have to get hot from deep to upset higher seeds. Abilene Christian was unable to do that against Kentucky, but Wofford went off from downtown in a big way as they downed Seton Hall in their first round matchup.
Magee was the star of the show as he went 7-of-12 from three-point range. His barrage was part of a team that hot 46.4 percent of their 28 triple attempts as the Pirates were never able to consistently challenge the Terriers shooters. Magee has hit an astonishing 509 three-pointers in his college career and he is also a 91-percent free throw shooter.
Defending the three-point line was a big issue for Kentucky early in the year. The team got better at making stops on those plays as the season went on, but any time you face a team that was as hot as Wofford were on Thursday then there is going to be an added emphasis on stopping the three ball.
Don’t let runs happen
Wofford are as explosive a team as you will find in this tournament. The way that they shoot the three, with four of their starters looking for the outside shot on every possession, means that a team can be blown out of a game in an instant.
That is exactly what happened to Seton Hall as the Terriers had a three minute spell in the game where they simply couldn’t miss. If Wofford gets hot at the same time that Kentucky hits a rough patch, then a 15 point turnaround can happen in no time at all.
The Wildcats have to be aware of the way that Wofford shoots the ball and stop any potential runs instantly. Coach John Calipari and his use of timeouts will be key here, but the Wildcats will also need to work out when to take the ball hard to the basket and force in a shot to slow down Wofford.