UK vs. ND: What We Learned

Three things we learned from Kentucky’s thrilling 68-66 win over Notre Dame to reach the Final Four:

1. IT’S HARD TO WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS:
A lot of people have assumed Kentucky cutting down the nets was a given, but even with one of the best teams in recent NCAA memory, the Wildcats’ path to a ninth national title will not be easy. There’s a reason why the best team in the tourney seldom wins it, and we saw why on Saturday in Cleveland. The Fighting Irish, a No. 3 seed, showed just how good the competition level steps up from the Sweet 16 to the Elite 8. The difference in the talent/skill level between West Virginia and Notre Dame was monumental. It shouldn’t be that kind of gap between Notre Dame and No. 1 seed Wisconsin, but if the Badgers have a 10-for-12 shooting half from behind the 3-point arc like they did against Arizona, nobody’s beating Bo Ryan’s club. In addition to being good, you have to be a little lucky from this point forward. A good bounce here and there. A favorable call. The Cats got both a couple of times late in the thrilling win over the Irish.

2. GO-TO GUY(S):
When Kentucky took possession with 34 seconds remaining in a tie game, the social media wheels were in full motion. Who takes the final shot for the Cats? The obvious answer was Karl-Anthony Towns, who had already posted a career-high 25 points against the Irish and was virtually unstoppable in the post. The next most-likely call was Aaron Harrison, UK’s “Mr. March,” who hit three of the biggest clutch shots in program history last season in tourney wins over Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin. But, ‘lo and behold, what does John Calipari do? He puts the ball in the hands of sophomore point guard Andrew Harrison and tells him to go make a play. Harrison did, attacking the basket with six seconds left and drawing a blocking foul from Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson. He knocked down both free throws, sending UK on to the Final Four and demonstrating just how much trust Coach Cal has in his floor general. How many teams have three players that a coach could call on in that situation? You could make a strong case that only Duke, among the Final Four squads, would have that many options. It’s a big advantage for UK next weekend.

3. DEFEND 3 OR DIE
Kentucky’s defensive strategy against Notre Dame was to run the Fighting Irish off the 3-point arc and take its chances on 2s by sticking with its philosophy of switching on every screen. It nearly backfired as Mike Brey had a tremendous gameplan utilizing the side pick-and-roll to score more points near the basket than any UK opponent this season. But Calipari’s approach was still sound. The Irish went 4-for-14 (28 percent) from the arc after coming into the game averaging eight made treys per game this season. They were not able to rely on uncontested jumpers, the easy path. The philosophy will need to stay the same against Wisconsin and, should the Cats advance, against either Duke or Michigan State. All three teams average about eight 3s per game, but can explode for a dozen on a given night. But none of those teams can beat UK with 2s. They can come close, like the Irish, but probably not finish the job.



AllWildcats Top Stories

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1. IT’S HARD TO WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS:
\r\nA lot of people have assumed Kentucky cutting down the nets was a given, but even with one of the best teams in recent NCAA memory, the Wildcats’ path to a ninth national title will not be easy. There’s a reason why the best team in the tourney seldom wins it, and we saw why on Saturday in Cleveland. The Fighting Irish, a No. 3 seed, showed just how good the competition level steps up from the Sweet 16 to the Elite 8. The difference in the talent/skill level between West Virginia and Notre Dame was monumental. It shouldn’t be that kind of gap between Notre Dame and No. 1 seed Wisconsin, but if the Badgers have a 10-for-12 shooting half from behind the 3-point arc like they did against Arizona, nobody’s beating Bo Ryan’s club. In addition to being good, you have to be a little lucky from this point forward. A good bounce here and there. A favorable call. The Cats got both a couple of times late in the thrilling win over the Irish.

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2. GO-TO GUY(S):
\r\nWhen Kentucky took possession with 34 seconds remaining in a tie game, the social media wheels were in full motion. Who takes the final shot for the Cats? The obvious answer was Karl-Anthony Towns, who had already posted a career-high 25 points against the Irish and was virtually unstoppable in the post. The next most-likely call was Aaron Harrison, UK’s “Mr. March,” who hit three of the biggest clutch shots in program history last season in tourney wins over Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin. But, ‘lo and behold, what does John Calipari do? He puts the ball in the hands of sophomore point guard Andrew Harrison and tells him to go make a play. Harrison did, attacking the basket with six seconds left and drawing a blocking foul from Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson. He knocked down both free throws, sending UK on to the Final Four and demonstrating just how much trust Coach Cal has in his floor general. How many teams have three players that a coach could call on in that situation? You could make a strong case that only Duke, among the Final Four squads, would have that many options. It’s a big advantage for UK next weekend.

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3. DEFEND 3 OR DIE
\r\nKentucky’s defensive strategy against Notre Dame was to run the Fighting Irish off the 3-point arc and take its chances on 2s by sticking with its philosophy of switching on every screen. It nearly backfired as Mike Brey had a tremendous gameplan utilizing the side pick-and-roll to score more points near the basket than any UK opponent this season. But Calipari’s approach was still sound. The Irish went 4-for-14 (28 percent) from the arc after coming into the game averaging eight made treys per game this season. They were not able to rely on uncontested jumpers, the easy path. The philosophy will need to stay the same against Wisconsin and, should the Cats advance, against either Duke or Michigan State. All three teams average about eight 3s per game, but can explode for a dozen on a given night. But none of those teams can beat UK with 2s. They can come close, like the Irish, but probably not finish the job.

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See what WILDCAT fans are saying here

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Show your support—get your Kentucky gear here!

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Members save 10% on Tournament Tickets

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1. IT’S HARD TO WIN CHAMPIONSHIPS:
A lot of people have assumed Kentucky cutting down the nets was a given, but even with one of the best teams in recent NCAA memory, the Wildcats’ path to a ninth national title will not be easy. There’s a reason why the best team in the tourney seldom wins it, and we saw why on Saturday in Cleveland. The Fighting Irish, a No. 3 seed, showed just how good the competition level steps up from the Sweet 16 to the Elite 8. The difference in the talent/skill level between West Virginia and Notre Dame was monumental. It shouldn’t be that kind of gap between Notre Dame and No. 1 seed Wisconsin, but if the Badgers have a 10-for-12 shooting half from behind the 3-point arc like they did against Arizona, nobody’s beating Bo Ryan’s club. In addition to being good, you have to be a little lucky from this point forward. A good bounce here and there. A favorable call. The Cats got both a couple of times late in the thrilling win over the Irish.

2. GO-TO GUY(S):
When Kentucky took possession with 34 seconds remaining in a tie game, the social media wheels were in full motion. Who takes the final shot for the Cats? The obvious answer was Karl-Anthony Towns, who had already posted a career-high 25 points against the Irish and was virtually unstoppable in the post. The next most-likely call was Aaron Harrison, UK’s “Mr. March,” who hit three of the biggest clutch shots in program history last season in tourney wins over Louisville, Michigan and Wisconsin. But, ‘lo and behold, what does John Calipari do? He puts the ball in the hands of sophomore point guard Andrew Harrison and tells him to go make a play. Harrison did, attacking the basket with six seconds left and drawing a blocking foul from Notre Dame’s Demetrius Jackson. He knocked down both free throws, sending UK on to the Final Four and demonstrating just how much trust Coach Cal has in his floor general. How many teams have three players that a coach could call on in that situation? You could make a strong case that only Duke, among the Final Four squads, would have that many options. It’s a big advantage for UK next weekend.

3. DEFEND 3 OR DIE
Kentucky’s defensive strategy against Notre Dame was to run the Fighting Irish off the 3-point arc and take its chances on 2s by sticking with its philosophy of switching on every screen. It nearly backfired as Mike Brey had a tremendous gameplan utilizing the side pick-and-roll to score more points near the basket than any UK opponent this season. But Calipari’s approach was still sound. The Irish went 4-for-14 (28 percent) from the arc after coming into the game averaging eight made treys per game this season. They were not able to rely on uncontested jumpers, the easy path. The philosophy will need to stay the same against Wisconsin and, should the Cats advance, against either Duke or Michigan State. All three teams average about eight 3s per game, but can explode for a dozen on a given night. But none of those teams can beat UK with 2s. They can come close, like the Irish, but probably not finish the job.

See what WILDCAT fans are saying here


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Show your support—get your Kentucky gear here!

Members save 10% on Tournament Tickets

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