Sweet Sixteen; Houston Scouting Report
Kansas City, Missouri – March 28, 2019 – Michael Willis – Bluegrass Sports Nation
The Wildcats are headed to Kansas City for the Sweet Sixteen in what has been one of Calipari’s best coaching results since he arrived. It seems like years ago, but just a few short months back Kentucky took a beat-down from Duke in the opening game of the college basketball season. A few weeks later Seaton Hall would edge out the Wildcats in overtime that left many fans wondering how far this team could go. Calipari kept telling fans that it was a “process” that we Cats would get there. He was right. After a season of learning and becoming a team. The Cats are on the cusp of their 38th Elite Eight with only the University of Houston in their way.
So what do we know about Houston, besides the fact they stole UK’s logo?
They play small. Most of the playing time goes to their guards and their only true center, Chris Harris Jr., only averages 10 minutes a game. Even their forwards are small. Houston’s top playing forwards are 6’5” and 6’7”. The Cougars, however, are still averaging more rebounds than the Wildcats. The size of the Cats will be a major factor in the game and something that Houston doesn’t play against in the American Athletic Conference.
They will shoot a lot of three pointers. Kentucky and Houston both average 36.4% from beyond the arc, but the Cougars have shot 300 more threes on the season that the Cats. Their top two guards, Corey Davis Jr. and Armoni Brooks, both shoot over 38% from three. Tyler Herro will have to apply the same defense he used Saturday against Wofford and make the smaller Houston team drive to the basket.
They take care of the basketball. The advantage with playing with a smaller line-up is having better ball handlers. The Cougars average more assist a game and less turnovers than the much bigger Wildcats. Constant pressure on the ball handler is a must if Kentucky hopes to move on in the NCAA Tournament.
They play good defense. Houston have held their opponents to 61 points per game this season, while only allowing them to shoot 36.6% from the field. Playing in a weaker conference may have padded this stat, but still it is impressive to only allow 61 points to any opponent.
They commit lots of fouls. Cougars commit 19 fouls per game and their opponents average 21 free-throws per game. This has been a statistic that the Wildcats have taken advantage of all season and I suspect that they will continue to on Friday.
With the availability of P.J. Washington still unknown for Friday’s 10 o’clock match-up, the Cats will have to play hard to beat a very good Houston team. I expect that Reid Travis will have another big game against the smaller Houston team who will have a very hard time guarding him.
The Wildcats can beat Houston without P.J. if they stay out of foul trouble and go to the inside on every offensive possession. If Richards, Montgomery, and Travis can stay in the game it will be hard for the Cougars to get any easy baskets or second chance points. Also, on the offensive side of the court the Cats have to drive to the basket or use the post to score over the smaller Houston instead of taking contested jump-shots.
This should be a fun game to watch and Bluegrass Sports Nation will be bringing you all the action live from the Sprint Center.