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December 9, 2011

Kentucky has position-by-position edge

A look at the matchups for Kentucky's game at Indiana Saturday at 5:15 p.m.:

Point Guard
No matter how he plays, it's going to be an unpleasant evening for Kentucky's Marquis Teague, an Indianapolis native who's likely to draw the ire of Indiana fans for leaving his home state for the Hoosiers' hated rival. Teague also has the headache of dealing with a savvy senior in IU's Verdell Jones III. The talent is a mismatch, but Jones, who's long and active, will make the game a challenge for Teague. EDGE: Kentucky
Shooting Guard
Indiana is a great shooting team - 44 percent from three-point range - and its best weapon is Jordan Hulls, whose range is unlimited. Hulls is shooting 53.6 percent from behind the three-point line. Kentucky's best three-point marksman is Doron Lamb, who's showing an ability to do more than score from long range, slashing to the basket with productive frequency. Lamb was key to UK's rally past North Carolina, and his three-pointers brought the crowd to life. It'll be key to keep Hulls' long shots from doing the same. Edge: Kentucky
Small Forward
The Hoosiers' Victor Oladipo just keeps getting better. He's scored in double digits in six of eight games this season, and like Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, he can ignite his team with defense. Neither player is a stellar outside shooter, but both can finish at the rim and will crash the glass. Kidd-Gilchrist has the advantage in height and reach, and he showed against North Carolina that he's an NBA-level finisher around the rim. This isn't the most explosive offensive matchup, but these will be the two most energetic players to watch. Edge: Kentucky
Power Forward
Kentucky's Terrence Jones played like a man possessed in the first half of last Saturday's North Carolina win, and John Calipari wants more of the same from him against Indiana. Jones is UK's leading scorer and tied for the team lead in three-point percentage. To have a chance for the upset, Indiana needs a big game from Christian Watford, particularly on the glass. Watford's five rebounds-per-game average would be a career low, and he'll need to outwork Jones on the glass - and find a way to score some key buckets - for IU to be in striking distance. Edge: Kentucky
Kentucky is the more talented team across the board, and that includes here, where Anthony Davis is the likely No. 1 pick in the June NBA Draft. But Indiana has a top talent of its own to contend with Davis in program-changing freshman Cody Zeller. The Hoosiers will run their offense through Zeller, who leads the team in scoring. He's also critical on defense, where he leads IU in rebounding, blocked shots and steals. The crowd is IU's biggest advantage, but a huge game from Zeller could be the key to an IU upset. Edge: Even

Cats Illustrated staff predictions for Saturday's game:

Brett Dawson, Publisher: Kentucky 77, Indiana 71 Darius Miller told his teammates this week that they're unlikely to face a rowdier crowd than the one at Assembly Hall, and he's right. If the Hoosiers hang around - or jump out to an early lead - the volume and venom in Saturday's game will be unlike anything UK will see this season, and unlike anything its freshmen have seen before. But the narrowing talent gap between the two programs still seems too wide for Indiana to overcome this season. Jones is key. If Indiana can't contain him, its chances at an upset are slim.

Steve Jones, Recruiting Editor: Kentucky 75, Indiana 68 The Cats will encounter a rowdy crowd and very likely could fall behind early, but their superior athletic ability, especially in the backcourt, will eventually catch up to the Hoosiers. Up front, Zeller is a terrific player, but he'll be greatly challenged to score and rebound against the Cats' long athletes.

Ben Jones, Staff Writer: Kentucky 92, Indiana 74 It's the most wonderful time of the year for Kentucky basketball fans. Calipari's teams usually make noticeable improvement with every game early in the season, and the Cats are still riding the momentum of a 73-72 win over North Carolina. Kentucky has also had a full week to prepare for the Hoosiers, so it'll be a shock if they underestimate Tom Crean's best squad yet. Balance is pivotal for both teams. Each has six players averaging at least nine points a game. But Indiana hasn't been truly tested yet, and the sheer ability Davis, Jones and Lamb should prove to be too much. It's hard to find a matchup here that favors Indiana. Until they've proven otherwise, the Hoosiers still lag far behind in this rivalry.

T.J. Walker, Staff Writer: Kentucky 77, Indiana 67 Although there is still a huge gap in talent, it seems like the Indiana vs. Kentucky rivalry is back. For the first time in a long time Hoosier fans finally believe their team has a chance at beating UK and with an undefeated record and one of that nation's top freshman, national media members are starting to believe the hype. It will be UK's first true road test but it would be a big upset if Indiana could find a way to knock off No1.UK. The crowd can only close the talent gap so much and Indiana's rebounding troubles won't be cured against Jones and Davis. Indiana is a good three point shooting team but it will have to be great to keep this game close.

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