Show Me My Opponent, 2020-21: Kentucky (#2)

Lineup notes

Kentucky:

  • Same starting lineup as last time: Askew, Mintz, Boston, Jackson, Sarr.
  • The big? change from last time is that Calipari has almost entirely erased Lance Ware from the rotation and is in the process of doing the same to Dontaie Allen (21 minutes played the last three games). When you don’t defend, you don’t play.
  • So, in all likelihood, it’s those top five plus Brooks and Toppin. If Tennessee manages to get even one of Sarr/Jackson in foul trouble, it’ll become that much easier to score in the paint.

Tennessee:

  • If everyone is available…well, who knows? But my best guess is Vescovi, Johnson, Springer, James, and Pons.
  • Tennessee’s most frequent lineup as of late has actually been Vescovi, Johnson, Springer, James, and Fulkerson.
  • I think E.J. Anosike’s rotational role is mostly wrapped up at this point. He could have a little Derrick Walker-like run and steal some minutes here and there, but it seems like Olivier Nkamhoua has usurped his role and is doing a better job with it.

Key matchups

Brandon Boston, Jr. vs. Jaden Springer. Boston has looked better over the last three games than he has at any time during his short Kentucky career, but so has Springer. Springer’s been absolutely fantastic for four games in a row and I’m not sure I see anything that would lead me to doubt he does it a fifth time in a row. Springer (along with Johnson) needs to get Boston in isolation as frequently as possible.

Olivier Sarr vs. John Fulkerson. When Sarr wasn’t committing fouls against Tennessee two weeks ago, he was doing pretty well: 14 points on 9 shots, five rebounds, a block and a steal. (Plus, he got Fulkerson in foul trouble very early.) Fulkerson cannot have the same absolute dud of a fixture as last time.

Keion Brooks, Jr. vs. Yves Pons. Brooks was electric for a long time, but when Tennessee swapped Pons off of him for Josiah-Jordan James, he scored two points in the final 11 minutes of the game after posting 21 points in the first 29. Pons will be better in this one, but he needs to do a better job of forcing Brooks into tougher shots and keeping him off the boards.

Isaiah Jackson vs. the entire frontcourt. Jackson barely played at all last time, but I would be surprised if he posts the same 12-minute game time tomorrow. You can’t let him get going on the boards, and you can’t be afraid to go at him in the paint.

Three predictions

  1. Both teams take more than 33% of their shots from non-rim two-point land;
  2. Jaden Springer scores 15+ points for the fifth straight game and the sixth time this season;
  3. Tennessee 73, Kentucky 63.

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