The Kentucky Wildcats brave severe weather tonight as they journey to the deep freeze heart of Cajun country — Baton Rouge Louisiana — to challenge the LSU Tigers in an SEC road contest. LSU is significantly better this season than they have been in a while, although they have not had as much success in the SEC so far as most pundits, including me, thought they would.
A win over Kentucky tonight would change that quite a bit.
- Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Conference: SEC
- Head Coach: Johnny Jones (since 2012)
- NCAA Appearances: 20
- Most recent NCAA appearance: 2009
- Most recent NCAA win: 2009
- Founded: 1860
- Enrollment: 22,122
- Last season's record 19-12 overall, 9-9 in conference
Source: Basketball State
Season so far for Georgia:
- Season record: 12-6 (3-3 SEC)
LSU started out the season with a 2-point loss to a good UMass team on the road, which probably will go down as a "good" loss. They also lost to Memphis and Rhode Island, the latter of which can only be seen as a very bad loss.
Since SEC play has begun, they have lost to Tennessee at home, lost to Ole Miss in overtime on the road, and lost on the road to Alabama. LSU has played a lot of teams close, but has managed to win only 2 of them — vs. Butler at a neutral site and at Texas Tech. Ken Pomeroy reckons the Tigers are 7th in the SEC at this point.
LSU and Kentucky have been playing since 1933, and LSU has a record of 24-83 against the Wildcats (0.29), which is at the lower end of the top tier of Kentucky's SEC foes, in company with Alabama and Florida.
LSU has 4 wins in the last 20 games against Kentucky, which stretches all the way back to 1996. LSU's most successful stretch against the Wildcats was between 1985 and 1992, a 19-game stretch in which they Bayou Bengals went 9-10 against the Wildcats.
|Rank and Records||UK||LSU|
|Strength of Schedule||#8||#71|
|RPI Top 50||2-2||0-2|
Courtesy of Statsheet.com
LSU is a very good offensive rebounding team, as you can see above. The Tigers have a tall, strong front line, but they lack overall bulk. Tennessee outrebounded them almost as badly as they did Kentucky. In conference, Kentucky has been only slightly better on the offensive glass.
LSU is a very poor defender of the three, allowing opponents to shoot 42% — dead last in the conference.
LSU is a below average free throw shooting team. By contrast, considering conference play only, Kentucky is shooting 70%.
Kentucky gets to the line much more than LSU. In fact, LSU is among the worst teams in the country at getting to the free throw line.
LSU is a very good shot-blocking team.
LSU is not a good ballhandling club.
LSU is a great steals team, getting 13% steals in conference. Overall, they are 10th in the land at stealing the ball.
LSU doesn't shoot a lot of 3-point shots, about 31%. By way of comparison, UK shoots about 29%.
|1||Hickey, Anthony||S**||G||5-11||182||Jr.||Hopkinsville, KY||18||8.5||2.8||3.2|
|24||Morgan, Malik||S*||G||6-4||199||So.||River Ridge, LA||17||4.9||3.4||1.2|
|2||O'Bryant III, Johnny||S**||F||6-9||256||Jr.||Cleveland, MS||18||14.4||7.3||1.6|
|5||Coleman, Shavon||S**||F||6-5||195||Sr.||Thibodaux, LA||18||8.9||3.8||1.4|
|25||Mickey, Jordan||S||F||6-8||220||Fr.||Dallas, TX||18||13.2||7.2||1.0|
|10||Stringer, Andre||MR*||G||5-10||190||Sr.||Jackson, MS||18||12.0||2.8||3.1|
|12||Martin, Jarell||MR||F||6-9||241||Fr.||Baton Rouge, LA||16||8.7||4.1||0.4|
|55||Quarterman, Tim||MR||G||6-5||180||Fr.||Savannah, GA||18||2.9||2.1||1.9|
|3||Shortess, Henry||R||G||5-9||150||Fr.||Baton Rouge, LA||5||0.6||0.0||0.4|
|11||Hammink, Shane||R*||F||6-7||217||So.||Millingen aan de Rijn||13||1.1||1.5||0.3|
|45||Eddlestone, Brandon||R||F||6-8||245||Fr.||Slidell, LA||7||0.6||1.0||0.0|
|4||Hornsby, Keith||T||G||6-4||190||Jr.||Williamsburg, VA||-||-||-||-|
|20||Bridgewater, Brian||E||F||6-6||23||Fr.||Baton Rouge, LA||-||-||-||-|
|T||Transf. Year in residence|
Courtesy of Basketball State
Andre Stringer is a very efficient offensive player and makes 39% of his 3-point shots. He takes the most on the team as well.
Johnny O'Bryant is a tough, physical player as well as the leading scorer and rebounder. He is not a 3-point threat.
- None known for either side
- Anthony Hickey vs. Andrew Harrison — This is a very tough matchup for both players. Hickey has experience and quickness on his side, Andrew as size and greater talent. I'm not sure who will win out. Hickey is unlikely to be able to stop Andrew from getting his jump shot off or getting to the rim, but Andrew will struggle keeping Hickey out of the paint and taking care of the ball against one of the nation's best thieves.
- Malik Morgan vs. Aaron Harrison — Morgan is a solid player and scores well near the rim. He can shoot the three, but doesn't shoot a good percentage at 26% on the year. Aaron is bigger, stronger, and much more of a scoring threat from everywhere.
- Shavon Coleman vs. James Young — This is a great matchup on paper. Both these guys are about the same size, both athletic, both good defenders and both can shoot the three. Young is more skilled, and he gets the nod.
- Johnny O'Bryant vs. Julius Randle — This is the first time all year that it looks like to me going into the game that Julius Randle has no advantage in the matchup. That turned out to be true against Tennessee as well, although I think Randle was on Jeronne Maymon more than Jarnell Stokes. Randle out-masses O'Bryant, but not by much, and O'Bryant has gotten better every year, and he came into college as a 5-star.
- Jordan Mickey vs. Willie Cauley-Stein — Mickey is a lot like a shorter version of WCS — an athletic freak who can really block shots from the weak side and shoots a very high percentage from the floor. This is another great matchup in this game, and it depends upon which WCS shows up as to who is best.
LSU has a deep bench that contributes a lot to the team, and they have plenty of size there as well. Jarell Martin was last year's #13 national recruit, and he's a kid who can rebound and shoot the ball inside and out. He's the second-best 3-point shooter on the team, percentage-wise. Tim Quarterman is another talented player, a big point guard, rated a 4-star last season, and Andre Stringer is a deadly shooter who started last year and is coming off the bench this season, much like Alex Poythress.
This has the potential to be a really great college basketball game. LSU matches Kentucky strength for strength, and playing at home has to give them a lot of confidence that they can pull this upset. The problem is, they really haven't won any games of this magnitude all season, and you have to wonder if it is in them to get this done. They did beat Missouri in Baton Rouge last week, but Kentucky is a completely different matter. They will not be able to overpower the Wildcats like they did the smaller Tigers.
The key to this game is turnovers. Kentucky has been getting off to very poor starts taking care of the basketball, committing a lot of turnovers early in ballgames. LSU is built to take advantage of that, and like Kentucky, will look to pound the ball down low to O'Bryant and Mickey, who are adept at scoring in close. LSU's guards have an advantage in transition because of their greater overall speed, and it would behoove Kentucky to keep LSU in the half court as much as possible.
Kentucky does have a size advantage in the back court, although not a huge one, especially when Tim Quarterman is in the game. Kentucky must keep Hickey out of the lane, because if he gets in there a lot, it's going to lead to drop-offs to LSU's bigs for layups and dunks. That's where LSU's bread is buttered.
If the Wildcats can get into the lane and draw fouls, then make free throws at a high rate, LSU is going to struggle to keep up. But it's imperative that Kentucky not get off to a slow start on the road against this team, because the Tigers have all the pieces needed to hold on and force UK to play from behind. That's never a good thing on the road.
This is a very close game on paper due to the venue. In Rupp, UK would be favored by a significant margin, but in Baton Rouge, this game is almost a pick-em. This is a real serious test that the Wildcats must eventually pass. They failed their last such exam in Fayetteville, and this is a very similar, and arguably even tougher game. This is the kind of game that contenders find a way to win, and pretenders usually lose.