I realize this is really jumping the gun, but with a lot of misconceptions i've seen in other threads, I thought it probably wouldn't be too early to visit the rematch.
I posted a similar thread to this last year that a lot of people on here found informative on WVU. I grew up in northeastern Kentucky and bleed Kentucky blue, but moved in 2003 to Parkersburg, West Virginia, so I have had blue and gold shoved down my throat (even worse when WVU won) ever since. Since my fiancee and her family are WVU fans, and her sister is currently attending there, I was able to go to the WVU-Louisville game a couple of weeks ago. I see some similarities between UK and Louisville and how they play, and will try to draw some comparisons.
Anyways, here goes:
1. First and foremost, while WVU returned most of their starters, this is a team that is considerably weaker. They lost Devin Ebanks and DaSean Butler, but Butler is the most noticeable. Ebanks was a raw talent who did a lot of garbage work underneath and made up for the lack of a true center, but Butler was the leading scorer and WVU has not been able to replace that consistently. I thought early in the season Casey Mitchell would be that player as he played really well in an early season tournament, but he has been in and out of the doghouse with Huggins all season.
2. The players WVU does return we are all familiar with. Kevin Jones (KJ) has been the most consistent scoring presence for WVU so far this season and will provide matchup problems for Terrence Jones. The key to stopping KJ is limiting his jumpers and if he misses, keeping WVU off the offensive glass. TJ has somewhat disappeared during the latter part of SEC play and his presence is going to be needed against KJ.
3. Another matchup that worries me is Joe Mazzulla against Brandon Knight. Mazzulla isn't an offensive player but he is one of the best defensive PG's in the Big East (evidenced by shutting down John Wall last year). If Mazulla is able to get into Knight's head and disrupt our offense, WVU will be able to do what they want in slowing the game to a crawl. It's the only way they will have a chance.
4. I'm bolding this for emphasis: WVU is not going to run a 1-3-1 zone again. . If they do, Bob Huggins will be essentially giftwrapping the game for us and UK will win by 15+. The whole point of a 1-3-1 is to shut off the interior players and stop penetration. Our offense last season consisted of a blazing fast PG who could penetrate the lane (Wall) and an interior player who was unstoppable around the rim (Cousins). A 1-3-1 is ineffective when playing against a team who has players who can bury you from three. We have three of those in Knight, Lamb, and Miller. Last year we didn't have a Jodie Meeks or even a Xavier Henry who could have been that "zone buster". Asking this years team to beat you with the three is asking to get beat. Mark it down. Expect to see Bob Huggins go to his bread and butter, man to man defense. Unlike last season, every three will be contested.
5. UK has some defensive players that will pose matchup problems for WVU. Assuming Doron Lamb is healthy, Truck Bryant (who we did not get the privilege to play against last season) is a turnover machine and Lamb's defense will cause problems. Knight will likely be guarding Mazzulla, and I doubt you will see Mazzulla go off again. Lightning rarely strikes in the same place twice. The matchup I am looking forward to seeing is DeAndre Liggins vs John Flowers. If the Ole Miss tunnel altercation tells you anything, Liggins has been playing lately with a chip on his shoulder. Flowers is a similar player and I wouldn't be surprised if the two started jawing at each other (Flowers did the John Wall dance while celebrating last year after WVU beat us).
6. I'd say the revenge factor is going to be there, mainly for the upperclassmen (Liggins, Miller, and Harrellson). I thought UK overlooked WVU last year looking ahead to Duke and I don't think anybody is looking forward to playing Ohio State the following week. Consider Duke as living proof of this. In 2008, many of the same Dookies were younger players and were upset by WVU in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Most WVU fans thought they would steamroll Duke last year because they did it two years ago, but Duke was a more seasoned team and it showed considerably.
7. Overall, the big difference is that this years team is a smarter team than last years and is much better at shooting the three, which was our downfall last year. Brandon Knight doesn't have the athletic ability that John Wall did last year, but he is a much better shooter and UK as a whole has limited turnovers. We didn't utilize the dribble drive last year because we had Cousins, so WVU is going to get a different look with that. That being said, the 1-3-1 isn't going to be there, and WVU man to man has done a great job in shutting down the three.
8. 8-1. I think that pretty much speaks for itself. Huggins has owned Calipari and if it comes down to a chess match with a minute left, I would be hard pressed to bet on Kentucky. One thing I do believe that will help Kentucky though in facing WVU is that we played a similar team with a Huggins assistant (Ole Miss and Andy Kennedy) in the SEC tournament about a week prior to this game.
9. As I mentioned earlier, I was at the WVU-Louisville game and saw some similarities between Louisville and Kentucky. Peyton Siva played most of the game with four fouls and I would expect WVU to try to do the same to Knight. Louisville is one of the most "finesse" teams in the Big East and WVU's size and physical play gave Louisville's shooters problems. Also would like to point out that Deniz Kilicli is the most unintelligent player I have ever seen play. For all the hype he received (being called the Turkish Kevin Love), he hasn't done anything close to it.
10. For WVU to beat Kentucky, the Mountaineers will have to keep the score at 65 or lower. WVU is a defensive minded team and Bob Huggins will want to grind it down to a halt. For Kentucky to win, 70 or higher. It's going to come down to three point shooting for Kentucky and for WVU to have somebody outside of KJ step up. I'm going with Kentucky by single digits.