KSTV Staff Predictions: Kentucky At Tennessee
02/15/2013 04:22 PM
Life without Nerlens will be interesting for the Cats. Will WCS step up? Will the team find that sense of urgency it’s desperately been lacking? Will a leader emerge through the tough times? In short, will the team finally start growing up? Time is of the essence. Tennessee is a middle-of-the-pack SEC team coming off a big road win at Vandy and looking to finish strong going into March. The keys for Kentucky defensively are 1) finding someone to man up Jarnell Stokes and 2) avoiding team mesmerization by that which is Skylar McBee’s facial hair. Offensively, Kentucky needs to find balance as well as a proven go-to player. Who will start contributing consistently? Each time the Cats seem to have found their identity, the next game(s) they lay an egg. Kentucky will win in a tough, physical battle.
Kentucky 75, Tennessee 69
We’ve said this plenty of times before, but this truly will be the turning point for this Kentucky team, for better or for worse. The Wildcats could very well fall apart without Nerlens Noel as the cornerstone of the defense and the glue of the team, or this band of brothers could come together, rally in Noel’s absence, and tear through the rest of their schedule. The mock selection committee left Kentucky out of the NCAA Tournament, so Kentucky has an uphill climb in February and March. It all starts with Tennessee. Not only does the team need Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress to play up to their potential, but now Kentucky also needs Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood to step in and take some minutes and pressure off the other guards. A 20-point game from Kyle Wiltjer wouldn’t hurt either.
Kentucky 67, Tennessee 62
This game for Kentucky is a gut check. Two things can happen for this team during the game. 1) They can feel sorry for themselves, completely give up, and be NIT bound. 2) They can man up, come together as one, and have each other back. Be your brother’s keeper! I personal think they will come together and be their brother’s keeper. It will be a tough road game for them, because Tennessee has been playing well and will be ready for Kentucky. I think Archie has the game high with 16 points with Poythress adding another 14.
Kentucky 65, Tennessee 60
The one player that UK simply could not lose was Nerlens Noel. Not only did he lead the team in blocked shots and steals, but he was the energetic catalyst for a squad that was, at times, emotionally fragile and unstable. How will this team rally to perform without their star center? Who will emerge to pick up the slack as the Wildcats close out the “season on the brink” of missing the NCAA tournament? We’ll have some answers to those questions as the Cats invade Knoxville to take on the Vols on Saturday. I’m an old timer and I know how difficult it’s been for UK to win in Knoxville over the years. There is just something about the evil and disgusting Orange Ogres that casts a pall over the Kentucky Wildcats when they play Tennessee in Knoxville. My heart still aches when I think how the Vols ruined “Rupp Runts” perfect season with a 69-62 victory on Mar. 5, 1966. The Cats will give it their all, but it won’t be quite enough.
Tennessee 63, Kentucky 58