Who will be the key player for each team tonight?

Derek Willis (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Often the Kentucky-Louisville game produces a key player that no one was quite expecting.

Remember the 13-point game that Dominique Hawkins had in last year’s Kentucky win. Or what about the national break-out game that Josh Harrellson had in the 2010-11 season to help UK win at Louisville.

So I asked media friends who they thought might be the key player in tonight’s game for each team.

Jeff Drummond, Publisher All-Wildcats.com: “For Kentucky, I’d say it’s Derek Willis. In my view, he’s the X-factor who can turn the Cats from good to great. It’s hard to count on what exactly you’re going to get from him — somewhat similar to Alex Poythress — but on his good days, it makes this team almost impossible to defend.  For Louisville, I think it’s probably Quentin Snyder. He’s got a tough challenge on his hands going up against De’Aaron Fox. Plus, the Cats can roll other defenders at him like Isaiah Briscoe, Malik Monk and Dominique Hawkins. He’ll have his hands full, but if he can handle all that pressure, the Cards may have a puncher’s chance.”

Tom Leach, UK Radio Network/Leach Report: “Derek Willis is one and Isaac Humphries could be important if Bam gets into foul trouble.  There’s often an unlikely hero—like Hawkins last year.  For the Cards, I would say Quentin Snider and his ability to handle the defensive pressure from the UK guards.”

Larry Glover, WVLK LarryGloverLive: “For the Cats, Bam is the big key.  I’m confident that the UK guards will play well but they need a solid, if not great game, from Adebayo to win. For UofL, its Donovan Mitchell.  He leads UofL in scoring and needs a great game for the Cards to win.  If he gets dominated, UK could run them off the court.”

Keith Taylor, Kentucky Forward/Northern Kentucky Tribune: “De’Aaron Fox will be a key for the Wildcats just as Dominique Hawkins was in last year’s game for the Wildcats. Quinton Snider will be the key player for the Cards. Should be a good matchup for both teams and exciting game to watch.”

Mark Buerger, WLAP Sunday Morning Sports: “De’Aaron Fox for Kentucky. Can he make good decisions and maintain his poise against the way Louisville defends. VJ King for Louisville. Will he get to play much? Will Rick let him play through mistakes? Will a freshman this good ever go to Louisville again?”

1 comment

  1. Interesting question. I think the key match ups for UK in this game are the 3 and 4 spots. I believe UK guards are superior to Louisville’s guards, and I believe UK’s center spot is at least even if not better than UL’s 5 spot (BAM v Mathiang. Louisville goes big at the 3 with Adel (6-7), which means Briscoe will be asked again to defend a taller opponent. Louisville has a distinct advantage at the 4, with Willis/Gabriel against Johnson, but if UL can post up Briscoe and score against him, then Calipari will have to rotate Willis to defend Adel at the 3 spot and count on just Gabriel to defend Johnson at the 4, which I believe is not a recipe for UK success.

    Therefore, for me, the UK game depends on Briscoe successfully defending the 3. Here is my summary:

    1 spot: Fox v Snider Fox wins
    2 spot: Monk v Mitchell, Interesting match up, I think Monk wins this one closely
    5 spot: BAM v Mathiang, Important battle and BAM must stay out of foul trouble tonight
    4 spot: Willis & Gabriel v Johnson. Johnson wins this, but it can be kept reasonable if both Willis and Gabriel can be focused on this one match up
    3 spot: Briscoe v Adel. How well can Briscoe defend the taller Adel? If it is not too poorly, then the Willis/Gabriel tandem can remain on Johnson, but if Briscoe can’t stop Adel down low, then UK must give up a little of their plan to slow Johnson down.

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