3 things to watch: UK vs. WKU



1. Get back on track — UK didn’t play as sharp as usual throughout the entire SEC Tournament. The Cats had brief stretched of dominance, but nothing near the level that earned them a No. 1 seed.

Whatever was going on — the burden of the long winning streak, a bit of mental fatigue at the end of such a long season but before the REAL tournament started, three games in three days — was concerning on some level. It appears, however, that UK has hit the reset button. In both interviews and on the court, they looked reinvigorated. The team says they have their “swagger” back.

Now they have to play like they do.

2. Defensive lockdown — UK holds opponents to a nation-leading 36.8 FG percentage. Western Kentucky makes 39.4 percent of its shots, 321st in the nation. After Florida and Vanderbilt turned in good offensive performances against the Cats, going up against an opponent like this should be the opposite.

Even though Western Kentucky is a dream story, they’re a dream for a reason. The Hilltoppers are the only below-.500 team in the tournament and had to make a historical comeback to get to the Round of 64. But the Cats should show no mercy toward their in-state friends. Part of restoring that “swagger” entails crushing the Hilltoppers and reclaiming that feeling of being great.

3. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist — Something was missing during the SEC Tournament with Kidd-Gilchrist. Not just in terms of production — although that was certainly missing too — but in terms of energy, too, and that’s something he almost never lacks.

Kidd-Gilchrist is a vital part of this team. He’s an All-American and makes nearly as big of a defensive impact as Anthony Davis. On Wednesday, Kidd-Gilchrist seemed like a different man, full of excitement. Maybe it’s because he gets to play his high school teammate. Maybe the tournament just offers a clean slate and a fresh start. Whatever it is, he has to sustain that, even if he gets off to a slow start, for UK to go where it needs.