No. 1 Kentucky has been unstoppable, going 36-0 and cruising into the Sweet 16. The No. 5 Mountaineers come into Thursday night as the underdogs, but freshman Daxter Miles Jr. told ESPN yesterday that he was confident in his team, and the Wildcats will be 36-1 tomorrow. While West Virginia fans appreciate his confidence, it will take more than that to bring down the juggernaut Kentucky, something Bob Huggins knows all too well. Here are five things West Virginia will have to do Thursday to end Kentucky’s perfect season.
1. Execute the Press Defense
WVU has gotten this far with amazing play by the “Press Virginia” defense, as called by their fans. WVU swarms the court, rotating in as many as eleven players, and plays physical defense. The double team, bump, and get right into the other team’s face, to the tune of 20 forced turnovers per game. Kentucky is smart with the ball, but if Huggins’ squad can get the turnovers coming, the game could turn into theirs fast.
2. Slow Down Transition
Kentucky is good in transition. That may be one of the understatements of the year. UK is amazing in transition, they attack off turnovers like no one else. West Virginia needs to get back down the court and slow the game down. Force Aaron Harrison and that offense into the half court setting, where WVU has a better chance of forcing turnovers, their specialty.
3. Take Over The First Half
With how dominant Kentucky has been, we haven’t seen them far behind very often. With the dominance they have on defense, WVU’s best shot is to try and put UK in a position where they need to shoot their way back into the game. Calipari will focus on stopping exactly this, and will want to speed up the game while the ball is in Kentucky’s hands.
4. Don’t Let Aaron Harrison Get Hot
When Aaron Harrison starts landing threes and driving to the rim, he can take over games for UK. If this one of those games, WVU has no one that can handle him one on one. This will force them to double team him, and that’s give some of Kentucky’s other great shooters space to work. If they can shut down the young guard, WVU will definitely have a chance.
5. Stay Calm
UK is verging on history here, only 4 games away from a 40-0 finish. This puts a lot of pressure on Calipari and UK, but just as much on WVU. If they get behind early, Higgins needs to keep his team fighting, and the temptation to give in will be there. If any team has the heart and the fight to pull off an upset like this, it’s West Virginia.