By LARRY VAUGHT
Whether they want it talked about or not, coaches Bill Self of Kansas and John Calipari of Kentucky know that Saturday’s game offers a matchup of guards that is going to be a major topic of conversation.
Kansas offers veterans Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham going against Kentucky freshmen Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox in the 6:15 p.m. game on ESPN Saturday.
Self made sure not to forget Isaiah Briscoe.
“Obviously, with Briscoe, who I think sometimes doesn’t get the attention or the notoriety that he deserves – now I’m not there every day, maybe he does – but from the outside looking in there’s been so much emphasis on Fox and Monk, deservedly so. But Briscoe, he’s a terrific guard that I know opponents that have played against him know how good he is,” Self said.
“But with the two little guys out front, even though Monk and Fox aren’t exactly little, you got going against Mason and Graham, you got the prototypical experience against youth. And the youth is lottery pick talent without question, that have shown that they can play at the very highest level, and certainly play at a level that is better on certain days than anybody else in the country has played.
“Then you got some guys on our side that are pretty consistent, and tough, and solid, and been through a lot of wars together. I think it makes for a great matchup. I think there are other matchups that will be key, but certainly I think most eyes will be on those four guys.”
He’s right. They will — and should be.
Calipari doesn’t want his players trying to win one-on-one battles.
“We’ve slipped a little bit in our ball movement, creating shots for each other and kind of slipped into, ‘Let me go get something here and if I can’t let me try to pass it now.’ So, let’s hope my team doesn’t get into that,” the UK coach said. “But I will tell you that these are veteran guards, they’re crafty. Watching the tape from a year ago, they’re not going to make a whole lot of mistakes that are unforced. If you leave them open, if you lose sight, it’s a 3. They’re shooting a high, high number from the 3-point line.
“So, it’s a big-time challenge for these young kids. We saw it last game where you have your chance to get back in the game and try to win the game and we just make some unforced errors. That’s the process of learning with young guys. Now you hope that they realize, OK, what did I do, what could have I done, and next time I’m in that situation I’m going to try to do the right thing. But these are experiences my young guys have never been in.”