Thursday, December 5, 2013
Weekend Homework: UK visits Dallas
By Dana O'Neil
If all goes according to Kentucky and its fans’ plans, Friday night’s visit to Jerry Jones’ little arena will be a nice recognizance mission.
AT&T Stadium is the site of this year’s Final Four and the No. 3 Wildcats, who have designs on a date there in April, can use this as a scouting trip to check out the big scoreboard, the baskets, the town and the hotel beds.
But before April there is the business of December and for the young Wildcats, the business of December is risky. The game against Baylor in Dallas marks the first of a brutal five-game stretch for Kentucky. Currently undefeated and early favorite Cinderella Boise State comes to Rupp Arena on Tuesday; the Cats hit Chapel Hill to face North Carolina on Dec. 14 (which could be a breeze or a battle depending on which of the unpredictable Tar Heels show up). Then it’s a home against Belmont on Dec. 21, the same Bruins that beat UNC, and finally the civil war against Louisville on Dec. 28.
John Calipari may find himself begging the ball to drop and kick off 2014.
First up is Baylor. The Bears, like always, are offense first, defense sometimes but the offense this year is especially good. Baylor is shooting 50 percent from the floor, averaging nearly 80 points per game. They’ll be more than happy to push tempo against Kentucky and with a roster that goes nine deep, Scott Drew has the bodies to push that tempo, more bodies especially than Kentucky.
More important, the Bears have size. In recent games against smaller squads like Cleveland State, Eastern Michigan and Providence, Kentucky has feasted on alley-oops and easy buckets underneath, using Willie Cauley-Stein and Julius Randle to beat up their smaller opponents.
That won’t be so easy to do against Baylor. With 7-foot-1 Isaiah Austin and 6-9 Cory Jefferson, the Bears have the bodies to bang with Kentucky and can match the Wildcats on the boards.
So, while this might look like a little advance tour of Dallas for Kentucky, it really is a business trip.