UK v. UL: Breakdown: Guard Edition

UK v. UL: Breakdown: Guard Edition

by Kevin Faris
Sorry for the lack of a witty title, but I am watching Vandy defend the SEC’s honor in the Music City Bowl. As of now, they are up 6-0 over Boston College and every time they do something the announcers feel the need to make some sort of “That’s Vandy’s first ________ in a bowl since 1982.” and yes it got annoying about five minutes ago. And…..mute.

OK, the rivalry game against UofL is this Sunday and today we are going to look at the guards. Let’s make this easy. Advantage- Kentucky. Why? Jodie Meeks. UofL does not have a guard that is anywhere close to being as offensively talented as Meeks. So, let’s toss him out and look at the rest.

For UK we have Michael Porter, DeAndre Liggins, and Kevin Galloway. UofL has Andre McGee, Edgar Sosa, Preston Knowles, and Jerry Smith. Even without Meeks, this is a tossup, but I would give a slight edge to UofL. With Meeks, it’s not close. UofL is, on paper, more talented. Sosa, Smith, and McGee were highly sought after recruits. I still remember Rick Pitino describing McGee as “unguardable in the open court” as a freshman. This year. He is basically UofL’s Porter. Eerily similar stats, with both shooting 31% from the field and having identical 1.3/1 assist to turnover ratios. The fact that UofL’s guards are only slightly better than UK’s minus Meeks is a big reason why a team picked in the Top 3 of most pre-season predictions is currently ranked 18th.

If any guard for UofL is going to make a big impact in the scoring column, it will be Smith. A junior, he has been their best perimeter shooter since Taquan Dean graduate. As of today, he is hitting 44% from three, although he has only attempted 34. In contrast, Meeks has attempted 118 and is hitting 43%. UK has had problems in the past with good three point shooter, so Smith should have the opportunity for a big game.

On the UK side, I sincerely believe that Liggins has to play well for UK to win. I say this knowing that Porter will play at least 25 minutes. However, one of the weak spots in UofL’s defense has been their inability to stop the drive to the basket. Liggins is the best one on this team of doing that. Porter just needs to not turn the ball over. If he does that, Galloway may not get on the floor.

So, that’s a plus. UK has better guards than the Cards. If Meek is “on” and the other UK guards can help out a bit, UK should have a huge advantage. If Meeks is not “on” from outside, and doesn’t start driving to the basket, one of the other guards, i.e. Liggins, is going to need to step up and score.

If Smith, or Knowles, get some open looks, UK could be in trouble. If UofL’s guards play like they have played for most of the year, UK has a shot.

Tomorrow, I’ll look at the forwards/centers. Warning: This is not going to be as advantageous for the Cats.

And if you are wondering about former UK coach Tubby Smith, he lost today to the coach I like to call “the other Tubby”, aka Tom Izzo of Michigan State. Izzo has Tubby’s number, as I am sure UK fans are aware.

Happy New Year!!