BY LARRY VAUGHT
Before Kentucky played in the SEC Tournament, I got a chance to ask ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas what he thought would be the biggest key to UK having more success in the NCAA Tournament this year than it had last year.
His quick answer — defense — and UK continued its recent improved defensive play at the SEC tourney.
“I don’t think Kentucky can rely upon outscoring people. And when I say outscore people, obviously you have to score more points than them to win. Like there’s a lot of teams — there’s some teams out there that are not as defensive-oriented. So they’re going to try to just be more efficient offensively than you, just kind of try to pile up points and you can’t score enough to beat them,” Bilas said.
“I don’t think Kentucky can afford to do that. They’ve got to really be — they’ve got to be at their best defensively. You get down against a good team in the NCAA Tournament, it’s going to be a short stay. But they’re capable of second weekend. But they’re also, being as young as they are, the second-round game is going to be difficult depending on what matchup they draw. I mean, they’ve seen that when they got Indiana (and lost in the second round last year). It’s not easy.”
Calipari is on the same page with Bilas. He said after the SEC tourney championship that he would take his team over any other team in the country.
“If we don’t defend, we’ll lose real fast, like real fast. We guard and play with great energy and disrupt and do the things we’ve been doing, it should be a fun NCAA Tournament,” the UK coach said.
“You can’t have one or two guys breaking down defensively —the reason: we’re fast. I’m not worried much about offense. Defend and rebound, and someone else will pick up the slack. We’ve been down and up, but we’re better than we were three weeks ago and these kids are in a great state of mind.”