UK & UofL match-up pretty well in the frontcourt. Both teams use subs to supplement the overall performance and with both teams, defense & rebounding is at a premium at the 4 & 5 spots.
Ray Spalding vs. Alex Poythress
This match-up is the inverse of what we saw with Louisville’s veterans in the backcourt in Trey Lewis & Damion Lee vs. Kentucky’s youth in Isaiah Briscoe & Jamal Murray. Ray Spalding played just 6 minutes vs. Michigan State and made little impact, however, Ray’s role has significantly increased since that time. Alex Poythress is a vet, he’s played in this game more than anyone that will suit up on Saturday.
Spalding has MAJOR potential and Saturday’s game will be his first extended action vs. a high major opponent. Spalding has a unique ability to move without the basketball and find space near the rim. Ray is also a defensive dynamo at times causing a major disruption to the passing lanes and can alter and block shots.
Poythress is thicker than Spalding but not as long and hits a much higher Free Throw %. Both rebound at the comparable rate (per minute) while Spalding is much more active getting steals and blocks. Overall, Poythress & Spalding will likely match-up for about half the game and it is possible that Calipari elects to use Marcus Lee vs. Spalding (Marcus Lee could easily be the starter, we’ll get to him in a minute in the bench section) and could match-up Poythress vs. Jaylen Johnson (more on him in a bit too).
I’d give the edge here to Poythress based on experience, but there is no reason why Ray Spalding can’t also have a big game.
|Ray Spalding||Alex Poythress|
|6-10, 210, Fr.||6-8, 230, Sr.|
|Field Goal %||65.30%||57.40%|
Chinanu Onuaku vs. Skal Labissiere
There has been much hype around Skal Labissiere and lately a lot of that hype has been tamed by some of his recent play, particularly against teams from the Power 5. Chinanu Onuaku was slowed with foul trouble vs. Michigan State & St. Louis both of which posed the toughest challenge to Nanu thus far in 2015-16. Skal also has struggled with foul trouble in 4 of 11 games this season.
Onuaku is a very intelligent basketball player and sees the pass extremely well. Nanu has greatly improved his skill set in a year but has yet to really perform at a high level for an extended period of time on the floor vs. high major program this year. Nanu is much stronger than Labissiere and has the experience factor of playing a year in the ACC (including 20 minutes in this game last year). This is a huge game for Nanu as many draft experts are factoring him into their bottom half of the 1st round of the 2016 NBA Draft.
Skal has a great deal of talent as well but has been pushed around in the post and his lack of physical development (he’s a freshman) greatly impacts him against stronger players in the post as evidenced by his lack of rebounding in 2015-16. Labissiere is much more of a threat to alter shots but it is alarming that Skal averages more fouls per game than Nanu given Nanu’s foul trouble.
Both teams are going to drive the lane and challenge these two bigs, so who is behind these two is just as important as Nanu and Skal themselves. It is fairly clear here that Chiananu Onuaku has the edge over Skal statistically but there are still a lot of questions surrounding both players and a solid performance on Saturday could mold the rest of the conference schedule for either.
|Chinanu Onuaku||Skal Labissiere|
|6-10, 230, Soph||6-11, 225, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||63.0%||54.1%|
Losing Mangok Mathiang for Louisville is a tough blow. Mangok’s experience, toughness and defense is a difference maker and allowed the Cardinal defense to execute a volume game plan with its frontcourt. Now that plan has to be altered and players like Chinanu Onuaku must play a little more cautiously. Louisville did get a lift with the return of Anas Mahmoud vs. Utah Valley. Mahmoud can play both power forward and Center for the Cards but is still not 100% after an ankle sprain.
It is inevitable that Rick Pitino will utilize Matz Stockman in relief at the Center spot vs. Kentucky and throughout the winter. Prior to Mangok’s injury Matz had logged just 36 minutes for the Cards this season. Stockman is a big body and moves well but if he appears vs. Kentucky it will be his 1st test against a high major program since a blow out loss vs. Virginia Tech last January. How will Matz fare against Marcus Lee or Skal Labissiere? Pitino is likely going to use Matz right before TV timeout whistles and if Nanu gets into foul trouble. But again Anas Mahmoud’s return is TREMENDOUS in giving Pitino options in the post.
Marcus Lee is a force off the bench (unless he starts as he has in 7 of 11 games in 2015, but not recently). Lee has length and uses that to set himself apart from Jaylen Johnson to block shots and finish more efficiently around the rim. Jaylen is crafty around the rim and is very under rated in his ability to defend and run the floor. Derek Willis and Isaac Humphries also provide a large presence for Calipari as Willis is good for a few points a game and Humphries can play some defense in a pinch.
With the return of Anas Mahmoud (even if he can only go 6-7 minutes) the front court bench is a good match-up. Marcus Lee is the best player of the bunch and could easily find himself in the starting line up to match Louisville’s length.
|Jaylen Johnson||Marcus Lee|
|6-9, 215, Soph||6-9, 224, Jr.|
|Field Goal %||51.7%||65.60%|
|Matz Stockman||Derek Willis|
|7-0, 240, Soph||6-9, 220, Jr.|
|Field Goal %||68.40%||46.50%|
|Anas Mahmoud*||Isaac Humphries|
|7-0, 200, Soph||7-0, 260, Fr.|
|Field Goal %||52.90%||42.90%|
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