Kentucky plays Marquette on Thursday in Anaheim, Calif., in a first round NCAA game. The Golden Eagles (24-9) are a No. 6 seed while UK (18-12) is the No. 11 seed.
Crean says there's no doubt the two teams are similar in their reliance on guard play. The Wildcats are led by seniors Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford while Marquette is led by Jerel McNeal, Dominic James and Wesley Matthews.
"I don't think there is any doubt with Patrick Patterson out of the lineup, they are very conscious of their perimeter guys as are we," Crean, a former Western Kentucky assistant coach, said. "But they have able bodied guys up front. (Perry) Stevenson is playing well. (Mark) Coury) does some good things. Ramon Harris knows what he is doing. I would like to think our bigs have the capability to step up and play as well
"We are very dominant with guards. We want to go inside and defend the lane. We are very guard oriented and it appears Kentucky is the same way. But both teams have bigs that can step up and have to step up."
The Marquette guards
James, a junior guard, was a preseason All-American pick for Marquette by Blue Ribbon Basketball Yearbook. His scoring average is down to 13 points per game this year but he had 25 points against Villanova and 23 against Notre Dame. He's also a nifty passer and recently had 12 assists against Pittsburgh. He did sprain his wrist in early January and also sprained his ankle late in the season, but he did not miss any games.
McNeal, another junior, was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year last season. He scored in double figures in all but three Big East games, but his shooting percentage dipped to 40.6 overall. However, recently his shot has improved, his turnovers are down and his scoring average is back to 14.3 points per game.
Matthews, also a junior, is averaging 11.2 points per game but has as many assists - 57 - as turnovers.
Crean says the play of reserves David Cubillan and Maurice Acker, who average a combined 31 minutes per game, could be key against UK.
However, what impresses Crean about the Wildcats is UK's ability to score when the 35-second shot clock is about to expire.
"One thing that separates them is how good they are with the shot clock. They know exactly what they want to get done with the shot clock. I have not see anybody all year as good as they are when the clock is running down," Crean said.
Still, Crean likes the way his backcourt played in the recent Big East Tournament against Seton Hall, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh.
"We are in a situation right now where we are playing with lot of energy and spirit. When we have the ability to make the next pass when we are ready to shoot, and not only get a good shot but the best shot, then we can play at a high level," Crean said. "We have had our trouble shooting the ball at times. But when we are not shooting well, we can make up for it with defense and rebounding."