Boise State finally gets a real test on Tuesday night (9 p.m. ET on ESPN) when they take on No. 11 ranked Kentucky Wildcats, and to get to know them better we reached out to a Kentucky expert. A Sea of Blue is SB Nation's Kentucky community and Glenn Logan answered a few of our questions about this matchup.
Q: How have Kentucky's freshman gelled so far this year, and could that cause them to struggle at times with a young lineup that has not played a lot together?
A: They have been just okay. There still seems to be quite a few issues with communication, as was clearly evident in the loss to Baylor the other night.
These guys are all prodigiously talented, but like every player, they have individual weaknesses, and like every team, there are team weaknesses. These kids ball-watch too much, they lack fundamentals, and they allow bad plays and missed shots to affect them. In sum, they are a young group and sometimes play that way.
Q: What went wrong in the loss against Baylor?
A: Two major things: A failure of fundamentals (blocking out on defensive rebounds) and a failure to properly defend the pick and roll. Also, for some reason, Kentucky turned down good, open looks in an effort to get the ball inside, rather than understanding you have to make the outside shot consistently to free up the zone inside.
The lack of ball movement led to a lack of penetration, which lead to a lack of free throws. Kentucky gets to the line a lot, and when they don't, it really hurts their offensive efficiency. Combine that with the inability to guard a pick and roll, and Baylor just exploited more of our weaknesses than we could overcome.
Q: Kentucky rebounds the ball very well and Boise State does pretty good for their lack of size, so could rebounding be the key for Kentucky to win by getting second chance buckets and starting quick fast breaks?
A: It will be the biggest key. Kentucky must learn to take care of the defensive glass. They failed to do it against Baylor, but Baylor is a very long, tall team like Kentucky. A failure to do it against Boise St. will likely be fatal due to the astonishing shooting ability of the Broncos.
Kentucky cannot expect to out-shoot Boise, so they must get offensive stick-backs and use their length, size, and athleticism to get offensive boards and draw fouls. They also have to try to force the Broncos to shoot the ball on the move, or from spots they don't want to shoot from.
Q: Will Boise State's chemistry of being an upperclassmen team help them have any advantage against Kentucky?
Yes, indeed. Boise returns all five starters, and that is a rare thing in major college basketball these days. It is a source of great concern for me that Boise's cohesiveness as a team, which has been much in evidence in the early season, will be hard for Kentucky to overcome with greater skill and athleticism on the plus side, but youth and inexperience on the other.
Kentucky will have to play a very mature game against Boise St. The Broncos remind me very much of last year's Notre Dame team, who stuck it to Kentucky up in South Bend. The home venue will be a big help for the 'Cats, but they need to play well.
Q: What does Kentucky like to do on offense and defense?
A: Kentucky likes to play through Julius Randle, and Willie Cauley-Stein, our big guys. We like to force the defense to collapse, and you absolutely, positively must double-team Randle on the touch. If not, he's going to score and you are going to foul him while he does it. No use getting mad about it - you have to be quick to the double team, or it's over. He's just too big, too strong and too quick for any of your inside guys in isolation.
WCS is less of a threat to score than he is to create havoc inside, and make a play that results in a score. He doesn't have go-to moves like Randle's spin, but he can use either hand in close and he's 7' tall. He's also a good passer and really runs the floor in transition.
Q: How does Kentucky plan to matchup or attack a smaller Boise State lineup?
A: Matching up on defense will be tough. Kentucky tends to lose people after about 20 seconds, and losing Drmic or Elorriaga would be fatal. Aaron and Andrew Harrison have both struggled defending smaller, quicker guards, but the good news is that none of the Bronco's guards are that small or that quick comparatively. So it will be more about how patient the Broncos can be, and how long Kentucky can stick with their man.
Kentucky will also try to run on Boise St., and they have the athleticism to do it. You must get back in transition or Kentucky will have a dunk-fest, but they aren't so good that you can't get back. I have seen better transition teams at Kentucky than this one.
Q: What is your prediction in this game?
A: I think Kentucky wins a fairly close game, say 75-67. I expect Leon Rice to zone a lot in this game because he has to know the zone has sometimes, but not always, given Kentucky problems. I have a lot of respect for Boise St., and I know they are a very good, and well-coached team, so I'd be a bit surprised at a blowout.
On the other hand, I'd be surprised, but not shocked at an upset.
So, make sure to check out A Sea of Blue for a lot more coverage on this game between Boise State and Kentucky.