Commentary

Baylor and Kentucky like fast pace

Originally Published: March 24, 2012
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- The length. The athleticism. The dunks. The fast-paced action. The running. Oh, the running.

There is a chance Kentucky and Baylor could put on a higher-level ABA display than what we witnessed Friday night at the Georgia Dome, when Kentucky and Indiana combined to score 192 points.

[+] EnlargeMarquis Teague
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesMarquis Teague leads Kentucky's high-paced offense.

"When I watched the game, I thought we should have just had a red, white and blue ball and it would have been all good,'' Kentucky coach John Calipari said on Sunday.

"We scored on them, just like they were scoring on us,'' Calipari said. "It was incredible.''

Calipari said he expects Sunday's Elite Eight matchup against Baylor to be something similar.

And he knows what his players want to do.

"Do you want to play slow or fast?'' he asked them on the podium during Saturday's news conference.

"Fast,'' Kentucky senior guard Darius Miller said.

"Huh. If they play the way they enjoy playing, they're going to play better,'' Calipari said. "They just are. They're going to be more comfortable. I trust these players. We had six turnovers and we scored 102 points. I know they're going to make good decisions. The only time they don't is when I leave them on the court too long.''

The common mistake when teams push the tempo is to assume that it's an easy way to play.

"You've got to be in good shape to play like that, especially when you're playing against another talented team who's really attacking the way [Indiana] did [Friday] and the way [Baylor] can Sunday,'' Miller said. "If you slip up one time, you see they took advantage of it. You fall asleep on defense or anything like that, they're going to run back. That's an easy bucket for them and that's something you can't have in the postseason.''

[+] EnlargePierre Jackson
Nelson Chenault/US PresswirePierre Jackson can keep pace with the Wildcats.

Baylor's Pierre Jackson can certainly hang with Marquis Teague on the break. Running with Miller, Terrence Jones, Anthony Davis & Co. won't be a problem for the Baylor bigs such as Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller, Quincy Acy or Anthony Jones.

But there are risks if the Bears get caught up in trying to match Kentucky speed for speed, step for step.

"There was one point where Quincy Acy had a dunk and [Xavier's] Tu Holloway scored a basket right after that,'' Jackson said. "Kentucky is a fast team in transition. They get out really fast.''

Acy said if the Bears don't defend and rebound well against the Wildcats, trying to run will be moot.

"I'm not sure how it will play out but it will be a great game,'' Acy said. "We have to get stops. We can't let them get easy rebounds. We can't let them leak out. We have to make the tough plays, stick our nose down there and grab the rebound to make stops.''

Calipari is expecting Baylor to play more zone. If that happens, the game might slow down a bit.

There's no question which style these teams would want to play -- fast, as long as it's under control.

Calipari said he doesn't want a slow pace.

[+] Enlarge John Calipari
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images John Calipari prefers a fast pace, as do his players.

"I don't like it,'' Calipari said. "I don't enjoy coaching that way, they don't enjoy playing that way. But they know they can win if they have to play that way, which is important in this tournament.''

The Bears can put up loads of points. Their defense has been suspect at times and that's why they've had to come out of their zone principles and move to more man-to-man.

"Usually, we are way more athletic than most teams that we might play outside of maybe North Carolina and Kentucky,'' Quincy Miller said. "Going into this game, we match up pretty well with all of Kentucky's starters. We are basically all the same type of players in terms of athleticism.''

Baylor doesn't have the name recognition, but there won't be an Elite Eight game with more potential NBA draft picks than this one.

If Baylor were in the West bracket, the Bears would be the favorite. If they were playing an injury-riddled North Carolina or a Kansas team that has struggled so far, they may be looked at differently as well.

But you can't change the bracket. Baylor is here with Kentucky, the team that it mirrors the most.

There will be highlight dunks. There will be run-outs. There will be fast breaks. And there will be plenty of 3-pointers launched.

This should be one of the more entertaining games of the tournament. If it's not, it likely means Baylor did something wrong. The onus is on the Bears.

Baylor didn't have a choice in its uniform color. Since it will be the road team, it has to wear its black uniforms, not the highlighter, neon yellow with which it has been undefeated in so far in the NCAAs.

But that shouldn't affect the way it plays.

Let's hope not. Otherwise we won't get the type of game anticipated between the two most athletic teams remaining in the field.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com