What to Expect: Kentucky

  • 03/18/2016 12:11 pm in

Indiana advanced to the second round of the 2016 NCAA tournament in convincing fashion on Thursday night as the Hoosiers crushed Chattanooga, 99-74. The reward for beating the Mocs? A second round showdown with Kentucky.

The Wildcats, now winners of six straight, beat Stony Brook 85-57 on Thursday, setting up arguably the most intriguing second round matchup of the tournament. The game will be broadcast at 5:15 p.m. ET on CBS with Jim Nantz, Bill Raftery, Grant Hill and Tracy Wolfson on the call:

DES MOINES, Iowa – The matchup that everyone wanted when the bracket was announced last Sunday is upon us.

Indiana and Kentucky, who haven’t met since the 2011-2012 season when the teams played both in the regular season and the NCAA tournament, will meet again on Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena.

It’s a rivalry that means more to the fans than the players at this point, as Kentucky plays just two guys (Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins) from its home state and Indiana plays just two guys (Yogi Ferrell, Collin Hartman) from the Hoosier state.

This is also a game that probably should have been saved for later in the tournament, but as a result of the selection committee under-seeding both programs, the outright Big Ten regular season champion and the SEC co-regular season champ and tournament champion will clash for the right to advance to the Sweet 16.


Guard play wins in March and Kentucky has two backcourt players good enough to take this team all the way to Houston.

Freshman Jamal Murray, who will be a lottery pick in June’s NBA draft and sophomore Tyler Ulis, a first team All-American choice by many, form arguably the nation’s most lethal backcourt.

The 5-foot-9 Ulis is the engine that makes the Wildcats go. On Thursday, he set the school assist record for a single season and his assist rate of 34.5, combined with a low turnover rate of just 12.8 percent, make him an incredibly efficient player. Ulis comes into Saturday averaging 17 points per game on 48.5 percent shooting from the field on 2s and 33.8 percent shooting on 3s. He’s also a deadly free throw shooter (85.8 percent).


As his shot chart above from ShotAnalytics shows, Ulis is a great mid-range player who also can nail the left wing 3-pointer. When Ulis gets into the lane, he makes opponents pay with pull-up jumpers or passes to teammates – like Murray and Derek Willis – for open looks.

Ulis is a pass first point guard – he passes on 60 percent of his ball screen opportunities – but is even more effective when he looks to score. When Ulis shoots off of ball screens, he ranks in the 86th percentile nationally with .95 points per possession. When he looks to distribute off of ball screens, it’s typically to a spot-up shooter (48.5 percent of the time) or the roll man (34.4 percent of the time).

Murray averages a team-high 20.1 points and is hitting 41.8 percent of his 3s on 268 attempts. In 187 spot-up possessions this season, he’s scored 208 points according to Synergy Sports, which ranks him in the 85th percentile nationally. He’s even more deadly coming off of screens as he’s scored 131 points in 84 possessions, which ranks in the 99th percentile nationally. Murray is shooting an incredible 81.9 effective field goal percentage off of screens.


Freshman Isaiah Briscoe, a McDonald’s All-American, starts with Ulis and Murray in the backcourt and is a guy who has to be played for the drive. Briscoe has made just five 3s all season and is hitting just 44.6 percent of his free throws.

Hawkins, a junior, who battled an injury earlier in the season that forced him to miss seven straight games, could get some spot backcourt minutes. He’s hitting 52.9 percent of his 2s and 27.6 percent of his 3s in limited attempts.

One of the primary reasons Kentucky has played better late in the season is the play of Willis, a 6-foot-9 junior who can space the floor. He owns the 3rd best offensive rating in the country according to KenPom and is shooting a ridiculous 44.5 percent on 3s in 119 attempts. Willis, who comes off the bench, is also hitting above 90 percent from the foul line and 59.6 percent on 2s.

Senior Alex Poythress is inconsistent, but when he’s engaged, he’s an effective player on a team that doesn’t have the dominant frontcourt that we’ve seen on past Kentucky teams. Poythress is finishing 65.3 percent of his 2s and is the team’s best defensive rebounder (19.1 DR%).

Freshman Skal Labissiere has played better as of late after an otherwise underwhelming season. In Thursday’s win over Stony Brook, he had 12 points, four rebounds and six blocked shots in 23 minutes. His long term potential still has him pegged as a potential lottery pick in June.

Junior Marcus Lee is an elite offensive rebounder (13.4 OR%) who finishes 68 percent of his 2s, which ranks 10th in the country. Lee is also a very solid shot blocker, with a block percentage (7.3) that ranks in the top 65 nationally.



There are plenty of similarities between Indiana and Kentucky’s profiles. Both teams are elite offensively and solid, but not spectacular defensively.

Indiana and Kentucky can both attack the glass relentlessly, although Indiana is considerably better on the defensive glass. The Wildcats are much better at taking care of the ball, but force less turnovers than the Hoosiers. Kentucky gets to the line at a better clip, but they’re also putting opponents at the line far more frequently than IU.

This game could be a shootout similar to the back and forth game we witnessed back in 2012 in Atlanta when the two teams combined for a ridiculous 192 points.


The KenPom projection is Kentucky by 2, with a 43 percent chance for the Hoosiers to pull the upset. Sagarin also likes Kentucky, but by less than a point. The Vegas line opened early Friday morning with Kentucky as a 3-point favorite.

It’s not going out on a limb to predict that guard play will decide this game. Ulis and Ferrell are two of the best point guards in the country. The Hoosiers are going to have to try and figure out a way to slow down Murray and the guess is that both Robert Johnson and OG Anunoby will get chances to do so.

The challenge in guarding Kentucky begins with Ulis who makes everyone around him better and doesn’t make silly mistakes with the ball. He’s fully capable of controlling the game and when Kentucky’s offense gets rolling, the Hoosiers must be able to withstand the runs of the nation’s most efficient offense.

With a game under its belt and confidence, is Indiana ready to take the next step and punch its ticket to the Sweet 16?

(Photo credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

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  • SCHoosier

    We can’t afford for him to have only 1 rebound either!!

  • SCHoosier

    And don’t think Calipari won’t exploit that…

  • BL

    I would put TB on Poythress/Lee. Let our wings take Skal.

  • SCHoosier

    UK is awesome at the pick and roll’s with a high lob to the bigs. if they don’t score they get fouled. Major effort needed to control that play.

  • BL

    Great strategy and I would do that all day long. Make them pay dearly for playing a 5’9 guard. YF has the height, weight and strength advantage and is just as athletic. If their bigs collapse, great, our bigs can knock down wide open shots.

  • Banner6

    Also noticed he passed up the reverse layup. Don’t know if it was because he was afraid the UTC player might attempt to block the shot while slapping the wrist. Hoping for the best. TW scares me each time he puts his head down and dribbles into traffic. He’s best when he’s moving and lets the game come to him. Maybe I’m biased but I thought UTC was a much better team than Stoney Brook and the way IU beat UTC was more impressive than UK over SB. SB look scared and looked like a team that should have never been in the tourney.

  • pcantidote

    Especially with Max in the game. Make them decide whether to leave Max open or let Yogi dominate Ulis down low.

  • b_side

    Zach Auguste.

    The backup Aussie on Nebraska.

    UM’s bigs (Wagner especially).

    Happ drove on him 10-15 feet from the basket.


    So he’s seen these stretch bigs before. I’ll freely admit he’s struggled with them though.

  • cooper

    Very important game for the team and Crean. Win and I think its a successful year and a great recruiting tool. Lose, and I don’t think it is a great year.


    1. Bryant can’t foul
    2. Troy can’t keep driving and falling down (TO or dumb plays which lead to TO)
    3. Rebounds-they are going to score, just don’t give them multiple chances.

    Will be interesting to see Ferrell/Ulis matchup. By the way, I almost fell off the couch when last game was his first double-double. Doesn’t make sense at all. He has to get guys involved.

  • Don’t sleep on Marcus lee, their best defender.

  • If Nick can’t guard Murray, then he becomes a big liability for us despite his own sharp shooting capabilities

  • Koko

    This game will not be a blow out and KY will not win.
    IU 79…KY 75

  • PocketHoosier

    That scenario is a possibility, but not universally bad; I’d give them 2 points every trip if it meant 3 for us on the return trip.

    If Nick can’t guard Murray *and* his sharp shooting doesn’t cover for defensive deficiencies, *then* he would become a big liability.

    Short of that scenario, you can’t really say until after the game is decided how that will shake out. But the last I checked, it doesn’t do any good to be great defensively against an opponent if your number on the scoreboard isn’t higher than theirs when the buzzer sounds.

    We will need Nick’s shooting, badly.

  • BL

    UK definitely has size and athleticism but having watched quite a bit of tape, I’m not as anxious on that front as I was going up against our BIG teams. Lee/Poythress are very athletic but 6’9/6’8, not 7’0. In conference play, they averaged 6.3 and 5.2 rebounds, respectively (similar to TW). Compare that to Woodbury/Hammons/ that average 10 and 7.6, respectively. Hell, Swanigan averaged 7.5. Skal is 6’11 and long but the more I watch him, I’m not impressed with his athleticism or toughness. He doesn’t play physical enough to be a really good rebounder. Not writing UK off, just perspective.

  • Koko

    A few hours from tip off. The KY trolls have come and gone. Match-ups have been discussed. Now one thing left to do….tip it up and play ball. I don’t care who plays who anymore. I’m seeing this game from the heart and I see us winning. Our boys are full of heart, guts and tenacity. Who cares if they don’t know who Yogi is or if they even know the significance of this game to the fans. That arrogant, condescending point of view will be their downfall. It will be a tough game once they figure out who they are playing but when the final buzzer sounds we will be the winners of this game.

  • Chris

    Both big ten championship game participants out in first round…any question about what 3 games in 3 days can do to a good team going into the big dance a few days later?? If we play like the 2nd half of UTC game we can beat anyone. It is easier said than done but I know the guys will give it all. Go Hoosiers!!

  • robmac10

    I could be very, very late to this, but I just watched UK players presser and all of them except Ullis seemed so bored or non-chalant about this match up. Found that quite an interesting contrast watching our players all having a quiet fervor or quiet intensity that they wouldn’t openly admit to being happy about having a shot at them but could tell they’re dialed into it. Makes me very excited because I think our guys are going to come out fired up and with intensity, just hope they can sustain it for the full 40.

  • robmac10

    We know who the refs are for the game yet?

  • Ivy Walls

    As an old timer now games like these, in situations where the game itself is larger than the history or lore, the game will become a benchmark on the history. This game will not come down to individuals but which team plays as the most cohesive unit together and forces the other team’s top individuals to play outside themselves and not as a unit. Yes guard play will be predominate as an indicator but guard play as a unit. IU will have to play like they did against MD and IA during the final week defensively. Possessions will be the key but which team plays better defense as a unit and which team plays better offensively as a unit (not having Williams or Yogi force things while making Ulis and Murray to force things on their side) will be probably the indicator of who prevails. ME–I like our chances, UK has ducked us for 4 years, they know it and so do we. They like to run and so do we, IU is a better running team than practically every other team in the country, and I like our bench going truly 4 deep with impact players who can play significant minutes. IU by 5

  • robmac10

    Double digits only via fouls at the end, otherwise I honestly think this game is going to come down to which team keeps their mental focus in the game. Talent wise both teams stack up well. It’s going to be a high paced game with highlight reels to go around, it’s just going to be which team can bounce back from the opponents runs that are inevitably going to happen. I think that’s one of the biggest improvements CTC has made for himself is coaching the guys through an opponents run. Settling them down and flipping the tables. Bring on the cats.

  • Ivy Walls

    And said this to our asst BB coach, I am a scout for a HS team that is a CO perennial power.

  • PS IU

    I agree. IU needs to run, run, run. Keep Kentucky on their heels.

  • PS IU

    Agree. During one of the press interviews, Yogi was asked if the team had seen Des Moines and his answer was “this is a business trip”. Yogi has shown his leadership.

  • BL

    NZ better suited to take Briscoe who’s not a good outside shooter. He can sag him and force him beat us with his weakness.

  • TB gets in a lot of trouble when he hedges on top, when tries to recover his man is usually open for a wide open shot or he fouls. I know hedging is something he needs to do I just wonder if he needs to do it 20′ from the basket? IMHO he might think he is quicker than he actually is and that gets him out of position.

  • BL

    Yeah, got lazy and didn’t cover the bench. We have a few weapons as well 🙂

  • BL

    TB can also knock it down from outside.

  • ForeverIU

    Marcus I read your post yesterday and thought I would read it again today with fresh eyes. What the hell r u talking about man?

  • I didn’t see the UK presser, but I felt exactly the same way about ours. You used the right term, I think: quiet intensity. And I called Yogi Iceman in another comment.

  • I think he means that some UK fans have been talking crap, and some haven’t. Those who have been will get some serious grief from him if IU wins.

  • vicbert caladipo

    4-0, 13-3, 14-2 my brackets so far. Already have a cool grand coming to me even though MSU killed everyone. The mighty Pac-12 with tourney high(tie) 7 bids with 4 of them teams with double digit losses and a 10 loss team seeded fourth. A conference where every quailifier was seeded higher than their opponent has a whopping 2-5 record so far. The B1G is 4-3. Big 12 3-4. Sec 2-0, and Acc 6-1. Finally picking against the Pac-12 schools has paid off for me. I have a good feeling about today. Our brains will defeat their brawn. 81-78 IU.

  • SCHoosier

    Agree..u will notice that whenever TB is involved in a questionable play or foul and gets upset..Yogi-Rob-Collin or Nick is immediately in his face calming him down and reassuring him. That’s good coaching and nice team work.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Amen to that. I for one am glad we are playing Kentucky today. Yogi and team have been wanting this longer than fans/alumni realize. That is apparent from their interviews yesterday. Enjoy the game Old Timer/Ivy Walls and all.

  • Ivy Walls

    Was there at the heart ache of losing 92-90 in OT in the Elite Eight in 1975 and then again went all the way to Phlly in 76, and then again in 81. Both cases IU won by playing as a unit of great players, a unit together. Once a team forces your players to win as individuals you will emerge victorious, not that making great plays is not part of it but great plays within the confines of playing together

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Kick Kentucky’s a$$!!!!!!!!

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    Confines ie “Friendly Confines” Wrigley Field. You are correct on the team approach and that is why I am confident Kentucky will lose badly. I couldn’t make it to Philly in 81 because of spring football practice. What great memories and more to come starting today. Take care Ivy Walls.

  • Ronald Barrett

    Wearing my favorite shirt all day today!

  • Ronald Barrett

    Go Hoosiers!


    Utilizing the exact same plan of attack. Have one friend who is one of the ten that you can actually talk about the game with without feeling the need to carry a barf bag, or feel like you just want to punch certain ones right square in the mouth (it’s not like I would have to worry about cutting my hand on any teeth), That will be a civil discussion regardless of the outcome…….but there are more than a couple of others that are going to get an earfull, along with some other stuff that will be a case of things making the full circle back to them. And of course it will be unfair if what they done and said to others, is what is handed out to them. What was done to New York city in Escape from New York is what should be done with Lexington, and then send in Snake McCallister, only this time arm him with with a nuke.

    Edit: Now that I think about it maybe watching them turn on each other might be more fun.


    EGG ZAK LEE !! Right there with him, in location (S’thrn IN) and in how he is going to handle those kind of things if IU wins. People that don’t live in southern IN just don’t understand what it’s like, not only putting up with a much larger number of those freakin’ inbreds, but having to do it on a daily basis. It’s a situation that the gun control people could probably exploit. lol


    Totally agree. Think your number one thing is just that, our number one concern should be if they are able to drive the ball on us successfully.

  • Ivy Walls

    Hello Tony, I was golf 75-77

  • cbags05

    #1 efficiency? They play in the sec!

  • BL

    Tough path to the Sweet 16 for Duke. I don’t pay much attention to seedings but you finish 5th in your conference and you get seeded above the BIG champ? Really?

  • Justin Beard

    We need to make sure the 5 man (Max or TB) doesn’t leave a cutter open when he’s hedging out on the perimeter. I saw it a few times again Chat.

  • BL

    Latest line UK -4. Surprised by the margin. IU and BIG definitely getting no respect. Considering first games by MSU, PU, MU, understandable. Thing is, SEC only got two teams in. Guess that doesn’t matter. Our team has beat the odds all year. No reason to stop tonight. Go get ’em Hoosiers!!!!

  • SilentBob

    Ball movement will be of the upmost importance in this game. Really have to establish the post and attack. Most be aware of their length, not scared of it. I think our respective back courts with the inclusion of Troy Williams effectively even out, with perhaps a nod our way depending on the day. So our wings (which Troy is also apart of) and bigs will be of the upmost importance. I like our fluidity though, especially on the defensive side. If we can make Murray and Ulis uncomfortable with different looks, then I like our chances.

  • BL

    Going to be a war. Think PU and MU games for good Karma.

  • IU Hoosiers # 34, 1979-83

    That is great!!!

  • ForeverIU

    Watching Yale’s artistry against Duke as they make a comeback from 20+ down.