Friday, December 07, 2012

Kentucky vs Portland....A Preview

Kentucky vs Portland….12/8/12 (Saturday-12PM) TV- ESPN2

UK leads the series 3-0

Portland Pilots

Location: Portland, Ore.
Enrollment: 3,300
Arena: 4,852

Head Coach: Eric Reveno
Career Record: 85-103 (45.2%)
6 Seasons all at Portland

2011-12 Record: 7-24
2011-12 West Coast Conference Record: 3-13
2011-12 Postseason: None

2012-13 Record: 3-5

Ohio U. 81 Portland 52
Portland 51 Idaho St. 48
Montana St. 83 Portland 64
Portland 81 Portland St. 60
New Mexico 69 Portland 54
Portland 78 Lewis and Clark College 73
Washington St. 72 Portland 60
UNLV 68 Portland 60

3 PT%-31.3%
RPG-33.5 (-0.5 PG)

Probable Starting Lineup

Ryan Nicholas-F 6’7” Jr……………..…...13.6 PPG
David Carr-G 6’3” Soph……………….….4.6 PPG
Kevin Bailey-G 6’5” Soph………….…....10.0 PPG
Thomas Van Der Mars-C 6’11” Soph……..6.9 PPG
Korey Thieleke-G 6’3” Jr………………….6.8 PPG

From 2008-2011 Portland averaged 20 wins per season and ranked in the top 5 colleges in 3 point shooting with an average of over 41%. Last season, the Pilots lost their perimeter shooting mojo and hit only 32% from long range….and unfortunately, this season thus far is a disappointing 31.3%. Portland is led in scoring and rebounds by junior Ryan Nicholas. Although only 6’7”, Nicholas weighs 235 and is tough on the boards averaging 10 rebounds PG. Guard David Carr leads the team in assists while substitute Tanner Riley comes off the bench and is the leading perimeter shooter hitting 9-24 for 37.5%. Otherwise, the Pilots have thus far struggled from long range.

In Portland’s last game against a 6-1 UNLV team….the Pilots played the Running Rebels tough leading at the half and losing by only 8 points.

Kentucky after losing a very disappointing and winnable game against a so so Baylor team….bounced back with an 88-56 win over a clearly inferior Samford team. The Cats played well in the 1st half grabbing a 45-14 lead, but then upset coach Cal with a sub par 2nd half with UK winning the 2nd half by only 1 point….43-42.

While no one questions the talent on this UK team, thus far they have disappointed and frustrated coach Cal with their too often lack of effort…especially on defense…. during games. Apparently, unlike last season’s great team….this team has not been working on their skills in the gym in the evening. As coach Cal has said….he can’t wave a magic wand and make this team a great team. Instead, these young players have to understand that it takes lots of heart and a total commitment to improve their conditioning and skills to improve as a team. Coach Cal has ordered increased conditioning and will do everything possible over the next few weeks….where increased practice time is available….to significantly improve UK’s defense and offense.

There is no question that Cal was counting on Ryan Harrow to be UK’s PG this season. Then Harrow’s illness cost him a couple weeks of practice at a critical time and now Ryan has to play catch up and get in much better physical shape. Thus far, Harrow is 3-19 from the field…0-6 from the perimeter….and 0-2 from the FT line. Hopefully, over the next few weeks Ryan shows significant improvement and can be an effective PG. The question regarding Harrow is his mental toughness and his physical ability….because the kid has PG skills. Right now it’s PG by committee with Goodwin, Polson and Harrow. The best outcome is for Harrow primarily and Polson to hold down the PG so that Goodwin can play the 2 guard which is his natural position.

UK is hoping that Kyle Wiltjer breaks out of a horrible slump from the perimeter. In credibly, Wiltjer has hit only 4 of his last 27 long range shots. The Cats have been counting on Wiltjer and Mays to provide the majority of their perimeter game….thus far Mays has shot a solid 38.5%, but Wiltjer’s slump has been very costly to the Cats.

UK has 3 games and 3 weeks to show significant improvement in conditioning, mastering the defense and offense…and perhaps most of all…the players demonstrating the needed commitment and heart to improve their game as the season progresses…..before the UL game and the start of the SEC schedule.

It starts with the Portland game this Saturday….I see a high energy UK team defeat the Pilots by 20 points. GO CATS!

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