GameNight: Kentucky vs West Virgina (Las Vegas)

November 29th, 2008
Nov 29 2008 - 10:30pm

Preview & Prediction: By Shawn Siegel

 

Bouncing back from a pair of opening losses, Kentucky (3-2) has won 3 games in a row and finds themselves in the final of the Las Vegas Invitational against unbeaten West Virginia (4-0).

 

The Wildcats knocked off Kansas State in the opening round, 74-72, but limped to the finish line after leading by as many as 17 points. Kentucky shot a ridiculously high 69% from the field, but struggled due to an equally shocking 31 turnovers. Jodie Meeks has been at forefront of UK's success and struggles. He's scoring at an impressive 27 ppg clip, but he turns the ball over way too much (5.2 per game compared to just 1.6 assists), and tends to keep on shooting even when he's cold. At times, Meeks has dominated UK's offensive sets, relegating the talented (and statistically superior) Patrick Patterson to observer status. West Virginia forced Iowa into a lot of turnovers last game, so UK's inexperienced guards could once again find themselves under pressure.

 

West Virginia is perfect on the season, but they haven't yet been tested by a quality team. They dispatched Iowa with ease, taking an insurmountable 19 point lead at the break. Despite the addition of highly-hyped freshman Devin Ebanks, it has been a pair of upperclassmen and an unheralded freshman who have the led the way. Alex Ruoff and Da'Sean Butler are the leaders, upperclassmen who have scored in double-digits every game. Butler will be the man called upon to stop Patrick Patterson. The unheralded freshman is Darryl Bryant, a tough guard out of New York who can do a bit of everything: shoot, pass, and even mix it up inside occasionally.

 

While WVU doesn't have the name-recognition of UK or even the other 8 Big East teams ranked higher, they are an NCAA Tournament-quality team with 8 legitimate contributors. Unlike UK, who depend almost entirely on Meeks and Patterson, any of WVU's 8 contributors can step up on a given night.  Because of this depth, and because they can overcome an off-night from one of their leaders (and because Meeks hasn't put back to back games together yet), I like WVU to win on the strip.

 

Winner: West Virginia       Margin: 4-8