Kentucky: 2009 NIT
Southeastern Conference (20-13, 8-8)
NIT Seed: #4
Big Wins: 11/29 vs West Virginia (54-43), 1/13 at Tennessee (90-72), 2/21 Tennessee (77-58)
Bad Losses: 11/14 VMI (103-111), 2/17 at Vanderbilt (64-77), 3/4 Georgia (85-90)
Coach: Billy Gillispie
Michael Porter, Junior, Guard, 4.1 ppg, 2.6 apg
Jodie Meeks, Junior, Guard, 24.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg
Ramon Harris, Junior, Forward, 5.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg
Perry Stevenson, Junior, Forward, 7.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.9 bpg
Patrick Patterson, Sophomore, Forward, 18.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 2.1 bpg
Josh Harrellson, Sophomore, Center, 3.8 ppg, 2.6 rpg
DeAndre Liggins, Freshman, Guard, 4.4 ppg, 3.0 apg
Darius Miller, Freshman, Forward, 5.2 ppg, 2.0 apg
Why They Can Surprise:
Kentucky has a dynamic inside-outside scoring punch with Jodie Meeks and Patrick Patterson. Those two account for over 56 percent of the team’s scoring. Meeks, a 6-4 junior, has developed into an explosive scorer this season. He hits 3.3 three-pointers and gets to the foul line an amazing 6.6 times per game. His scoring versatility makes him impossible to defend and he has had some superb scoring outputs this season. His best was on the road against Tennessee where he tallied 54 points and made ten three-pointers.
Patterson will not score quite as much, but he is the inside guy who will free up space for Meeks. Patterson is an efficient scorer in the paint and a great rebounder. He is even a solid free-throw shooter which has been very important in late game situations this year. When Meeks and Patterson are being productive, which is just about all the time, the Wildcats can beat just about anybody.
Why They Can Disappoint:
The biggest concern for Kentucky is getting the ball to Meeks and Patterson. Coach Billy Gillispie’s squad commits 17.7 turnovers per game. While seven players average at least 1.8 turnovers per game, the majority of the blame can fall to guards Michael Porter and DeAndre Liggins. Porter is the starting point guard and a solid defender, but he has to keep the team under control. Liggins is a better scoring option than Porter, but his turnover numbers are even worse and he has not been playing too much late in the campaign.
Who To Watch:
It is important that the rest of the team brings something else to the table when two players score as much as Meeks and Patterson. However, it would also be beneficial to find a consistent third scoring threat. The closest thing this group has to another scorer is forward Perry Stevenson. The 6-9 junior averages 7.5 points per game and can step out and hit the mid-range jumper relatively consistently. Stevenson does much more than occasionally score; he is a solid rebounder and a superb shot blocker. Fellow big man Josh Harrellson can add some size and depth to the frontcourt, while Darius Miller can do a little bit of everything. Ramon Harris has struggled this year with some injuries and illnesses, but he is the glue guy who will always work hard on the defensive end. It will not make the box score look any different either way, but if he continues to struggle in March, the Wildcats will struggle too.
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 75.4 (55th in nation, 5th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 66.5 (138, 4)
Field-Goal Percentage: 48.2 (16, 1)
Field-Goal Defense: 38.6 (8, 1)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.8 (209, 11)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.2 (118, 5)
Free-Throw Percentage: 77.7 (5, 1)
Rebound Margin: 5.5 (29, 2)
Assists Per Game: 15.9 (27, 3)
Turnovers Per Game: 17.7 (325, 12)
Joel’s Bracket Says: First Round loss to UNLV