A Truly Sweet Rematch
By: Will Chukerman
For the University of Kentucky, it’s national title or bust this year with perhaps their biggest hiccup standing in their way.
Round one between Indiana and Kentucky was arguably the most exciting game this season, and many hope that Friday’s matchup produces the same excitement.
Everybody remembers Christian Watford nailing a three at the buzzer to help put the Indiana Basketball program back on the national radar.
Much like the first matchup, this Kentucky team is being billed as the best team in the country with a roster loaded with NBA talent. Led by Freshman Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist the Wildcats are many people’s pick to come out of the South bracket and ultimately to win the National Championship.
The number one overall seed came into the tournament with a chip on its shoulder to prove that their second loss of the season, which came at the hands of Vanderbilt, was a fluke.
The Wildcats have won their first two games by a combined 31 points with wins over Western Kentucky and Iowa State.
Marquise Teague scored a season-high 24 points vs. Iowa State and led Kentucky to a dominant win.
It’s been Teague, who has been the weakest link on offense, picking up his play to give the already talent laden Kentucky team another threat.
Fellow freshman, Kidd-Gilchrist, seems to be suffering from a little bit if NCAA tournament jitters, scoring a combined 11 points in the first two games.
Both teams are vastly improved coming into Friday’s matchup that touts arguably two of college basketball’s most storied programs.
However, the Hoosiers will again be the underdogs coming into the game.
Indiana showed teams that UK was beatable after the first matchup (granted nobody did until Vanderbilt was able to steal one from the ‘Cats), and with both teams being improved who’s to say that it can’t happen again?
The loss of Verdell Jones III will certainly hurt this team, but they showed resolve without their senior leader against VCU in their come from behind win.
The Hoosiers won’t face nearly the same amount of pressure on defense that VCU presented them with, however, look out for Davis blocking shots down low.
Knowing they can beat this Kentucky team will certainly be a momentum builder for the team that beat two other top-five ranked teams over the course of the regular season.
Watford and Cody Zeller are playing well—both averaging 15 points a game in the tournament—and are also showing that IU’s stars will again be up for the challenge.
Watford was a huge factor in the win vs. VCU, scoring 8 unanswered points before half to put the Hoosiers back in the game.
Two players who have emerged as more than capable players, Matt Roth and Derek Elston will also be playing on Friday; whereas, they didn’t in the first matchup.
Although neither is a star, Roth has shown that no shot is outside his range and Elston can spread the floor with his outside shooting and sneaky quickness to the basket.
Both are usually the first players off the bench and giving the Hoosiers extra dimensions that will surely help them the second time around against the Wildcats.
Turning to the argument of the Hoosiers are at a disadvantage because this game won’t be played at Assembly Hall. This is a good point but this won’t be a true road game for the Hoosiers like the ones they have struggled in.
Kentucky fans travel very well, but so do Hoosier fans, which has all the makings of a split crowd at the Georgia Dome.
Indiana’s record on a neutral floor is 4-1, showing that although the team struggles on the road, they don’t when it comes to playing in front of a truly mixed crowd.
All the improvements that experts are saying Kentucky has made since the first matchup are evident, but there’s no doubt that Hoosiers have also made improvements.
The confidence and unity this team shows might be the factor that allows the Hoosiers to take down Kentucky for a second time and dash the Cats’ national championship aspirations.
They say opportunity never knocks twice, but Indiana will get one more chance to knock off the Wildcats, will the Hoosiers answer the call?
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