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Bilas: If UK defends at high level, it could be successful in March

Jay Bilas
(Photo by Allen Kee / ESPN Images)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Do you feel better or worse about the Kentucky basketball team than you did a month ago?

Kentucky fans certainly have mixed feelings about that. So I asked ESPN analyst Jay Bilas the same question on a national teleconference this week

“You know, they’re not that much different than they were a month ago. But I think they’re tougher and they kind of get it more. They still have the same sort of issues,” Bilas said. “I mean, Bam Adebayo’s played better. I think he’s continued to improve. He had a couple of 15-rebound games in a row.
 
“Malik Monk is still one of the handful of the best scorers in the country. I know he didn’t play well (at Texas A&M) the other day, or score well. They’re still a little bit vulnerable at the 4 spot and they don’t score from every position. They don’t shoot it from every position but they’re still really talented.
 
“And if they defend at a high level, they’re one of the top 10 teams, I think. So, yeah, I like their team. But they’re not — this is not the team that he had two years ago. But I think it’s better — I think it’s better than the team he had last year.”

So what would it take for UK to make a magical March Madness run again?
 
“They’ve got to guard people. They’ll have to do it defensively. I don’t think Kentucky can rely upon outscoring people. And when I say outscore people, obviously you have to score more points than them to win but it’s sort of like outrebound. Like there’s a lot of teams — there’s some teams out there that are not as defensive-oriented. So they’re going to try to just be more efficient offensively than you, just kind of try to pile up points and you can’t score enough to beat them,” Bilas said.
 
“I don’t think Kentucky can afford to do that. They’ve got to really be — they’ve got to be at their best defensively, because even when they played Vanderbilt, they’re getting down in these games. You get down against a good team in the NCAA Tournament, it’s going to be a short stay.
 
“But they’re capable of second weekend. But they’re also, being as young as they are, second-round game is going to be difficult depending on what matchup they draw. I mean, they’ve seen that when they got Indiana (last year) and all that, it’s not easy.”

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