Read the UK-Notre Dame game break-down right here by BBN Basketball Analyst Brett Ayers, aka mikeness30.
There are three things as a team that you need to have in order to win games: execution, intensity and above all consistency of those first two things. When UK comes to play, when they are aggressive first defensively then secondly offensively, there are few teams out there who can match them. This is a deep, talented and very gifted team. It has a leader; it has that component of unselfishness that is often hard to find in the modern college game. Sometimes, actually, UK is to unselfish and over-passes the ball.
The key to jump starting this Kentucky team appears to be the use of the press. It does not have to be all game long but it certainly needs to happen early on for at least a few possessions. The next key to getting this Kentucky team flowing is getting the ball down low to Estill. The first possession of this game against Notre Dame the ball went right inside and Marquis was awake and playing the rest of the game on both ends. Bit men or sort of like all other giants of myth, you sort of have to stoke their fires to get them going. Throwing Estill that early bone only got him lit and ready to play. Make no mistake about it though, for this team to get fired up it has to happen on the defensive end first and foremost.
Offensive Schemes: Kentucky mixed it up all game long using both flex, entry plays and their 4 out 1 in motion with picks away on the perimeter. Both Chuck Hayes and Erik Daniels have started to understand the opportunities made available to someone who cuts to the hoop. Both players demonstrated a wonderful knack for constant movement, but especially their movement towards the hoop. A lot of players will move east to west, but the good ones learn how to move north to south without the ball. The flex continuity offense really works nice for Bogans, Daniels and Hayes who have all learned how to come off that first baseline screen or up off that down pick so very effectively.
The key to Kentucky's offensive efficiency has been their patience. Kentucky is very well schooled and understands the pass before the pass. There were not a lot of one or two pass and shot possessions for the Cats this game. A team that does that will be a team that will at the very least get good looks at the basket. One other very important aspect to Kentucky's offensive success has been the entry of the ball down low tot he post players and their willingness and understanding of kicking it back out if they don't have good post position. This inside then back out action is paramount to moving defenses around. You collapse then expand then collapse again the defense.
Players Game Grades:
Bogans- B+ Keith sometimes actually passes up shots he should take. Really understands as a senior what it takes for this team to win and he is doing it.
Estill- B+ Marquis still needs to get a little better defending the low post at times. When he comes to play early on his game just becomes that much better. One of the most efficient big men in the country.
Daniels- A- Here is Kentucky's key player. Erik has skills that few his size do. He is a 6'8" two guard, almost. He is most effective cutting to the basket where his great hands allow him to catch nearly almost any pass thrown to him. One of the things that some folks over-look is his passing ability.
Hayes- A- I would still like to see Chuck work on his jumper more, which I am sure he does do, but when he cuts to the hoop, picks up loose balls and cleans the glass like he did yesterday he makes Kentucky a top 8 team in the country. He is the glue on this team.
Fitch- B Gerald is a very good defender whose offensive game is also very tough, most of the time. One of the things I would like to see him do better on his shot is follow through. Sometimes it appears as if he is aiming the ball instead of shooting it. Such a tough defender.
Hawkins- B Cliff at times still penetrates a bit too deep and gets himself out of position. He also needs to keep that head up a bit better because he has some open 12 footers I know he can knock down.
Camara- B Came off the bench with a little bit of a fire lit under his backside. I think Coach Smith did exactly the correct thing here with Jules. Jules still has got to remember that everything is to the goal and it is a dunk.
Barbour- C He has to take his time, not force his offense and the Cats will need some offense from him in order to continue to win against the likes of Alabama, Auburn, Florida and so on in the SEC. He has the jumper and now needs to stick it.
Carrier- C Josh, son, when you come in the game and when you are about to receive the ball I highly recommend that you get ready to shoot. Josh is way too tentative for a guy who is supposed to be a shooter. Part of getting your shot off at the Division I level is being ready to shoot always.
Defensive Schemes: I think this is the key for lighting that fire underneath the Cats early is. I think even if Kentucky just picks up full court man to man that they will be a way more aggressive team. When they do this the UK zone becomes ten times more effective. One thing that UK has to do better in their zone is be more aware of shooters and call out where they are. Carroll, like the guys from Vanderbilt got a few too many open looks. Another aspect of Kentucky's man to man that at times wane is their weakside vision on balls driven from the opposite wing. Guys get a bit tired and start standing up and getting to close to their men, not keeping that good ball-man-line vision. One last thing in man to man is that at times UK's players will leave their feet to easily on pump fakes on the perimeter. Stay down and contest the shot with both hands and don't go flying by off one foot. Stay in the play defensively at all times. Doing this often leads to the other team getting long boards.