College Basketball: Slow and Steady Wildcats Battle Georgia

Al Dannity | Updated Mar 01, 2012

The Dawgs enter Rupp Arena tonight for Kentucky’s final home game of the season. These aren’t the same Wildcats that started the season according to Al Dannity, and that’s bad news for anyone awaiting UK in March Madness.

Built for the Big Dance No player better typifies the change that’s come over Kentucky Basketball than Marquis Teague. The freshman averaged 5.89 turnovers per 100 possessions in non-conference action. Since SEC play started, that’s dropped to 5.02. The improvement in Teague’s ball security reflects the change of pace in the Wildcats’ game. Kentucky has slowed from a rate of 70.7 possessions per game in non-conference action down to 62.6. There are two key areas here that should pique the interest of NCAA Basketball betting fans. The slower pace has led to a reduction in fast-break turnovers by Teague. Likewise he has proven a better decision maker in the lane, where his turnovers are also down considerably.

Having a point guard who not only adjusts to a slower tempo but thrives in it should be music to John Calipari’s ears. The one-and-done nature of March Madness leads to fewer possessions per game. That means every turnover given up can hurt a team so much more. The adjustment in the Wildcats’ style reflects the changes College Basketball betting fans have witnessed over Coach Cal’s three seasons with Kentucky.

In his first year the Wildcats had a roster overflowing with talent but one that was too raw in its approach to survive the Big Dance. Last year’s team, while shorter on talent, was far more disciplined and designed to exploit opponents’ failings. This season the Wildcats have a loaded roster but the discipline of last year’s Final Four run remains in place. That makes UK a nightmare match-up in any scenario.

A big finish For all the technical qualities these Wildcats possess, recent NCAA Tournaments have taught us the importance of momentum. Duke rode it two years ago, Butler and UConn did the same last year. Kentucky has only one defeat all season but a late loss could hurt the Wildcats going into March Madness. While the big games are still a couple of weeks away, Coach Cal will be obsessed with going in on a winning note. Look for a big display tonight against the Dawgs to close out Kentucky’s home slate. There will be another big push at Florida on Saturday and in the SEC Tournament. All of it focussed on getting the Wildcats in the right place mentality to cut down the nets in New Orleans.

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