Christmas is over so let’s get on to the ACC basketball presents: on Saturday, Virginia gets Gonzaga and Louisville hosts Kentucky.
And this year, that’s going to be really odd.
Louisville hasn’t excelled so far but Kentucky has been historically bad to date. One player, Cam’Ron Fletcher, has stepped away from the team at coach John Calipari’s request, and rumors about player dissatisfaction are rife.
And now KentuckySportsRadio’s Matt Jones suggests on Twitter that Terrence Clark has sat out most of this week with an injury and may or may not play Saturday.
Needless to say, Louisville, which has been erratic but not Kentucky awful so far, is hoping for a major whoopin’.
We’re not entirely sure they’ll get it.
Kentucky has stunk so far, true, but they only lost to Kansas by three and while Notre Dame had a big lead, UK came back to make it just a one-point loss. And they were certainly in the game against UNC until falling apart.
And consider this too: sending Fletcher away may focus the other players attention.
So we’re sure that Louisville is going to get their best effort, even if it’s not clear yet just what that means.
Virginia and Gonzaga? Man is that an interesting game. Gonzaga has a potentially great team, one that has a real shot at an undefeated season.
Think about it: the West Coast Conference knows them best of course, and conference rivalries are unpredictable, but this is a really good team in a very strange year. We could see it.
Still have to deal with Virginia though and that's not easy. Gonzaga has been spectacular offensively this season but the Cavaliers have made a career out of grinding high-powered offenses into the dust.
So the question then is how do the Zags deal with a slow-paced, low scoring game? Running into the Pack Line is like trying to run in a swimming pool full of goo. It reminds us of when Rulon Gardner upset the great Russian wrestler Aleksandr Karelin in the 2000 Olympics. Karelin hadn’t lost in 13 years. No one had even scored a point against him. He trained by running up stairs with a refrigerator, among other unusual techniques, and was generally considered unbeatable.
Gardner was massive though, and Karelin said he just couldn’t get a grip on him.
That’s as good a metaphor for the Pack Line as we can think of. It seeks to dictate the pace, frustrate the offense and keep the game close at the end. And usually, when Virginia manages to do that, they are better prepared to win in every way.
We’d be surprised the game got out of the low 70s, at best, and as usual, Virginia understands that situation better than the opponents.
It’s going to be a fascinating game.
One final thing to consider: Tony Bennett came to Virginia from Washington State, which is less than two hours from Gonzaga. He knows exactly what Mark Few does and what his weaknesses are.
In fact, he may know this as well as anyone outside of the West Coast Conference
Saturday’s ACC Action
- Kentucky @ Louisville || 1:00 || ESPN
- Virginia vs. Gonzaga || 4:00 || CBS
- Finally a marquee matchup for UVa men’s basketball
- Virginia ready for battle of contrasting styles against No. 1 Gonzaga
- No. 16 UVA set to face No. 1 Gonzaga Saturday
- UVA gets its big-time test against No. 1 Gonzaga
- Virginia vs. No. 1 Gonzaga: will it be a 90- or 60-point pace?
- Louisville vs. Kentucky preview: Cards and Cats clash in annual Bluegrass rivalry games
- Everything you need to know about the Louisville Cardinals
- No. 3 in top 13 UK wins over UofL: Miracle run in 2014 NCAA
- Preview: Louisville Cardinals vs. Kentucky Wildcats
- Chris Mack Not Downplaying Kentucky Despite Wildcats’ Record
- CRAWFORD | Louisville looks to buck recent history
- Phone call convinces Cal that Fletcher will rejoin UK team