1. WHICH VERSION OF THE TEAMS SHOWS UP?
The Cats (14-4, 4-2 SEC) and the Commodores (11-7, 3-3) have had unusual seasons to date. They were both considered a threat to win the SEC heading into the season, but now find themselves well behind front-running Texas A&M in the league standings. It's not too late for either club to catch the Aggies, with some help, but both UK and Vandy need to establish some level of consistency and maintain it for the long run. Vandy has yet to beat a ranked team, falling to Kansas, Baylor, Purdue and South Carolina. Those losses were all competitive games, however, coming by a combined 26 points. The Dores are currently riding a three-game win streak on the heels of a three-game losing skid. The Cats have been in a win-two, lose-one pattern for quite some time. If the "good version" of both teams show up today at Rupp, we should have an exciting game. If either's team's bad alter-ego takes the court, it could be a long day for that bunch.
2. ANOTHER 3-POINT DEFENSE TEST FOR UK
Kentucky passed the test with flying colors on Thursday night at Arkansas, holding the SEC's top 3-point shooting team to a 2-for-12 night from behind the arc in an 80-66 win. The Cats will be put to the test again by Vandy, which buried 13 treys in its 88-74 win at Tennessee. Keep an eye on former Knott County Central standout and 2015 "Mr. Basketball" Camron Justice, who buried four 3s in the win over the Vols. Kentuckians who wound up playing for Vandy have often been a thorn in the side of the Cats. Even though the game is at home, this might be a slightly tougher challenge because, unlike Arkansas, the Dores have some decent inside-out balance. Big man Damian Jones (12.6 ppg) is an NBA-caliber talent, and fellow 7-footer Luke Kornet (9.5 ppg), the son of former VU star Frank Kornet, posted a triple-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 11 blocked shots against Auburn. Kentucky will have to approach this defensive matchup slightly different than the way it did the Razorbacks. It's imperative that Marcus Lee (pictured above) and Alex Poythress avoid the type of foul trouble they encountered in Fayetteville and previously at LSU.
3. CAN WILLIS, LABISSIERE KEEP IT UP?
The Cats got a huge boost from new starter Derek Willis and from Skal Labissiere off the bench in Thursday's win over Arkansas. Willis, a junior forward, is averaging 12.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in his last two games. He gives UK a new dimension on the offensive end of the floor due to his ability to stretch the defense and hit the 3-point shot. When UK's other forwards are on the floor, the offense tends to bog down a bit because defenses do not honor their ability to shoot, but Willis has changed that dynamic. Meanwhile, Labissiere is coming off his first double-digit scoring effort since early December and has fans hoping that he's ready to turn the corner. UK coach John Calipari took a large share of the blame for the Haitian Sensation's struggles to date, stating after the Arkansas game that he should have never tried to force the wiry Labissiere into the low post. Instead, like we saw in the last game, look for more pick-and-pop action between UK's guards and Labissiere with the 7-footer knocking down face-up jumpers from the elbow. With those two players performing well, the Cats' stock could be trending back where it was in the preseason.