Here we are about 28 hours from tipoff between the Kentucky Wildcats and Louisville Cardinals and the focus /concerns of the Big Blue Nation seem to be on two players: Terrence Jones and Marquis Teague.
It’s been a very tough month for Terrence Jones. Before the Indiana game, he was virtually unquestioned. Then came the MIA performance versus the Hoosiers and then the dislocated finger which cause him to miss part of three games. Rather fair or not, Jone’s performance against Louisville is going to be the barometer of how his is judged for the rest of his stay at Kentucky.
Personally, I think the negativity on Jones has been a bit unfair. Anyone watching the Chattanooga game can tell his finger was clearly mangled and that will obviously cause him to play a bit soft. I was in favor of him sitting out the last few games and getting healthy. That said, I am not a fan of how he played during the Indiana game, but I am not going to throw a kid under the bus for one game. Regardless, Jones knows the pressure is on him and that he “needs to toughen up”.
There is another angle on Jones that I have not seen addressed before so I am going to link it. We all know that Jones is from Portland and there may be a certain philosophical difference between the west coast and east coast players. I am not saying that I buy 100% into the ideology but it is an interesting theory and worth a good read. I have been asked several times on twitter my thoughts on Jones and I am willing to give Jones a chance for redemption against Louisville. I hope the rest of the BBN is too.
As we all recall, Marquis Teague was rumored to be a Louisville lean for months before the he committed to Kentucky so this game holds a special kind of scrutiny for him. Throw in the fact that the transition from high school to college has been a bit bumpier than it was for say John Wall and Brandon Knight and you have yet another area Kentucky fans are concerned about.
I will say it again. It is unfair at this point to compare Teague to Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall, or Brandon Knight. First and foremost, Kentucky is a better passing team than the other teams and Teague does not have to carry this team on his shoulders. Doron Lamb and Darius Miller are great at being unselfish and helping with distributing the ball. Jones and Kidd-Gilchrist also have more assists than a lot of front court tandems. That said, Teague needs to work on shot selection and keep his head up and look for his teammates. We do not need Teague to be a scoring point guard and I think at times, that is his main preference.
Eric Crawford broke down the game and listed Teague as one of the keys and said that PG was the only area where he gave Louisville an edge. Even with that, Crawford picks Kentucky to win 81-69.
ESPN’s Jimmy Dykes also weighs in on the Marquis Teague vs Louisville debate and says Teague is “irreplaceable” to Kentucky the same way Jared Sullinger and Kendall Marshall are to their teams. Dykes also expects Pitino to press Teague constantly and force him to bring the ball up the court under pressure. Dykes has some interesting points, but personally think an all out pressure defense against Kentucky is going to lead to a ton of lobs and breakaway baskets for UK due to the Wildcats length and athleticism.