Kentucky will face their toughest test this season when they take on Ohio State Friday night. Ohio State features one of the nation's best big man in Jared Sullinger. The Buckeyes also feature a team that can get hot quick from the three point line. They have four players who shoot 38.8% or better from three. As a team they shoot 42.4% from downtown.
One matchup that will be key for both squads is the point guard spot. Brandon Knight for Kentucky and Aaron Craft for Ohio State will try their best to lead their teams to the Elite Eight. Jerry Tipton talks about the two point guards in his article for the Kentuckysports.com. Here are some excerpts.
"He's one of the best I've ever had in terms of that," Matta said. "His mind."
Craft was the valedictorian of his class and National Honor Society president at Liberty Benton High in Findlay, Ohio. He aspires to be a surgeon, which prompted Matta to quip, "There's probably a good chance, if you need knee surgery, he'll be operating on you."
That kind of brainpower translates to the basketball court, Matta said.
"It's very advantageous to have a guy who thinks the way he thinks," the Ohio State coach said. "The other thing you can't ever lose sight of is he's a competitor, and he's a winner. He's going to do whatever needs to be done. He's going to study and watch film and scouting (reports) to gain every advantage to help him in the course of the game."
Of course, UK Coach John Calipari has said much the same thing about Knight this season. After Knight shook off his 0-for-7 shooting to hit the game-winner against Princeton last Thursday, Calipari said, "There's no one that works harder, spends more time or believes in himself based on his work ethic. He's the first one in the gym and the last one to leave. ... I have no problem putting that ball in his hand because he's made that shot in that gym by himself many times."
Calipari acknowledged not knowing Knight had missed every single shot until the game-winner in the final seconds.
"That being said, he's a winner," the UK coach said. "He's not afraid to make a play."
Unlike Knight, Craft is not a starter. He's only started one game for Ohio State. He's sort of the Buckeyes' offensive version of DeAndre Liggins. It doesn't take long for Matta to put Craft into a game. Craft is one of five OSU players with 1,000-plus minutes this season.
Craft committed a season-high six turnovers in Ohio State's loss at Purdue on Feb. 20. A reporter asked Matta what coaching advice or lecture he gave the freshman afterward.
"I didn't say anything to him about it," the Ohio State coach said. "The thing I love about Aaron, he's probably as hard on himself as any kid I've ever coached. I've got great trust in him, knowing those are the type of things that drive him nuts."
In the nine games since the loss at Purdue, Craft has 53 assists and 11 turnovers.
Morehead State Coach Donnie Tyndall, whose team lost at Ohio State in November, saw Knight as "one edge" he'd give Kentucky.
"Brandon Knight is their best player," Tyndall said. "Brandon Knight could maybe control the tempo and make plays from the point guard position. That might be the only weakness I see in their team."