Kentucky Wildcats at Auburn Tigers: Game Preview

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky and Auburn meet for the 106th time tonight in Auburn, Alabama.

It's off to the Plains of Auburn to face the Auburn Tigers tonight. Kentucky has an opportunity here to push their winning streak out to 4 games. Some people think that Kentucky may be overlooking the Tigers, but I hope that isn't true, because Auburn plays some pretty good basketball at times, even though Ken Pomeroy's site reckons them as only the #125 team in the country.

General

About Auburn

  • Location: Auburn, Alabama
  • Conference: SEC
  • Head Coach: Tony Barbee (since 2010)
  • NCAA Appearances: 8
  • Most recent NCAA appearance: 2003
  • Most recent NCAA win: 2003
  • Founded: 1856
  • Enrollment: 18,627
  • Last season's record 9-23 overall, 3-15 in conference

Source: Basketball State

Season so far for Auburn

  • Season record: 11-10 (3-7 SEC)

Auburn has been better this season than last, but has struggled to compete with better competition. Their best win to date was against the Clemson Tigers at home. Their most meaningful loss was a 68-61 game with the Florida Gators at home.

Auburn has been much tougher at home than on the road. Besides the aforementioned Gators, they played Missouri to a 2-point game and recently went on a 3-game winning streak, 2 at home and one on the road at South Carolina. Since then the lost at LSU in Baton Rouge, and finish the season with 5 of their last 8 at home, beginning tonight.

Series history

Kentucky's record against Auburn stands at 88-17, one of the more lopsided records in the SEC. The only run of moderate success the Tigers have ever enjoyed was between 1974 and 1976, when the Tigers won three of the six games in that stretch and 2 in a row.

In 1988, Auburn defeated #1 Kentucky in Rupp Arena, a rare feat for any team.

Source: BigBlueHistory.net

Stats

Team Comparison

Rank and Records UK AU
RPI #10 #150
Strength of Schedule #8 #115
Overall 18-5 11-10
Conference 8-2 3-7
Home 14-0 10-3
Away 3-3 1-6
Top 25 1-1 0-2
RPI Top 50 3-2 0-3


Courtesy of Statsheet.com

Four Factors

Team Notes

  • Auburn does not score efficiently, nor do they defend particularly well.
  • Auburn does score inside the arc pretty well, so interior defense will be important.
  • Auburn shoots the ball reasonably well from three, but struggles to defend it.
  • Auburn allows teams to shoot 50% eFG in conference.
  • Auburn is a very poor rebounding team, and puts teams on the line a lot.

Auburn Roster

# Name Status Pos Height Weight Class Hometown Games PPG RPG APG
0 Dixon-Tatum, Asauhn S** C 7-0 226 Sr. Anderson, IN 21 5.6 6.2 0.5
2 Payne, Allen S** F 6-6 225 Sr. Cincinnati, OH 21 7.0 6.0 1.7
1 Harrell, KT S+ G 6-4 216 Jr. Montgomery, AL 21 19.4 4.0 2.0
3 Denson, Chris S** G 6-2 181 Sr. Columbus, GA 21 20.2 4.5 2.4
13 Shamsid-Deen, Tahj S G 5-10 163 Fr. Decatur, GA 21 9.4 1.3 3.0
11 Wade, Dion MR G 6-5 170 Fr. Antwerp 21 3.2 1.4 0.7
21 Canada, Malcolm MR+ G 6-3 224 Jr. Austin, TX 21 3.1 2.0 1.0
41 Atewe, Matthew MR C 6-9 250 Fr. Brampton, Ontario 15 1.5 3.1 0.4
4 Waddell, Devin R*** G 6-6 209 So. Summerfield, NC 2 0.0 0.0 0.0
20 Thompson, Alex R F 6-8 204 Fr. Dothan, AL 14 1.4 1.3 0.2
22 Holmes, C.J. R+ G 6-0 191 So. Washington, District of Columbia 2 1.0 0.0 0.0
25 Granger, Jordon R* F 6-8 200 So. St. Louis, MO 15 1.1 1.9 0.2
31 Griciunas, Benas R- C 7-0 225 Fr. Silute 12 2.0 1.8 0.2
32 Griffin, Chris LT F 6-7 229 Jr. Tallahassee, FL 7 5.7 4.0 0.4
33 Delph, Ronald RS C 7-0 235 Fr. Winter Haven, FL
















Legend









S Starter









MR Major reserve









R Reserve









* Returning player









** Returning starter









*** Walk-on?









+ Transfer, eligible this season









- Injured – likely out









RS Redshirting this season









LT Left team










Courtesy of Basketball State

Player notes

  • Denson leads the team in scoring and rebounds the ball well for his size, and he and Harrell take the vast majority of Auburns shots. Denson also draws a lot of fouls - 8.1/40 minutes, 6th in the country. He only makes 64% of them, though.
  • Dixon-Tatum leads the team in rebounding and field-gal percentage. He also gets 15.1% of the team's misses, 20th best in the country, and leads the Tigers in shot blocking at 9.7%.
  • Harrell hits 39% of his 3-pointers, leading the team.
  • Shamsid-Dean gets 3 assists per game, best on the squad.

Injuries

  • Griciunas has been out a while with back problems, and likely won't play.

Likely matchups

Starters

  • Tahj Shamsid-Deen vs. Andrew Harrison — Shamsid-Deen stands only 5' 10", and we know how much trouble tiny guards like that give Andrew Harrison. He may also be too quick for Jarrod Polson, but I expect to see Polson a lot in this game unless Andrew's defense has improved. Fortunately, Shamsid-Deen isn't a big scoring threat. On the other hand, Harrison will be a tough cover for Shamsid-Deen on offense, and that may be enough.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Chris Denson vs. Aaron Harrison — Harrison will have his hands full with Denson, who likes to slash to the basket rther than shoot the three. It will be hard for Harrison to cover this guy, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him get Aaron in foul trouble. If so, expect to see a lot of Jarrod Polson and Dominque Hawkins in relief.

Advantage: Draw

  • K.T. Harrell vs. James Young — The winner of this matchup largely depends upon which James Young shows up. The James Young of last game will have trouble guarding this guy, and he's a major perimeter threat. But if the James Young of the Mississippi game shows up, Harrell will be the one in trouble.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Allen Payne vs. Julius Randle — Size will be the biggest problem for Payne here, as Randle has 30 lbs and 3 inches on him, plus all kinds of muscle mass. Payne's roll tends to be defense and rebounding, but he'll get plenty of help guarding Randle from his teammates.

Advantage: Kentucky

  • Asauhn Dixon-Tatum vs. Dakari Johnson — Dixon-Tatum stands tall enough, and has enough athletic ability to be effective against Johnson offensively, but Johnson out-masses him by a lot, so Dixon-Tatum will need help in the post. Willie Cauley-Stein presents as a more even matchup size-wise.

Advantage: Kentucky

Bench

Kentucky's depth will be a problem for Auburn, but not an overwhelming one. Auburn has sufficient depth, and while not as talented as Kentucky, they should be sufficient.

Advantage: Kentucky

Analysis

Kentucky's biggest threat here will be taking Auburn as seriously as they need to in order to win. Auburn looks really weak on paper until you see that they have given a lot of good SEC teams a tough game on their home floor. If Kentucky comes in with the same mindset they showed at Mississippi St., an upset will be much more likely.

Tony Barbee has certainly heard about Kentucky's struggles in transition, and while Auburn hasn't exactly burned up the stats with their transition offense, they have enough quick and athletic players to give Kentucky a headache if they don't get back much better than the Wildcats did in the first half of the Mississippi St. game.

Kentucky must exploit Auburn's rebounding, as it is among the weakest in the SEC on both sides of the ball. Auburn also has trouble in that they put their opponents on the line a lot, and that plays right into the Wildcats' biggest strength — getting teams in foul trouble and getting to the line. The Tigers shoot a good percentage from the floor and the like to shoot in inside, with only 26% of their points coming from outside the 3-point arc.

Defensively, the Tigers will probably zone a lot against Kentucky, but they will also play man, particularly with Randle on the bench, figuring that they have enough size to handle Poythress, and can always double-team Johnson. Dixon-Tatum could play WCS straight up, so we'll probably see a mix of both types of defense.

Auburn gave the LSU Tigers fits in Baton Rouge, and LSU has a similar front-line to Kentucky. To be fair, the biggest problem in that game for LSU was poor shot selection, and the Wildcats need to learn from that, eschew the three, and drive the ball as often as possible into the lane tonight. If Kentucky can do that, and win the rebounding battle convincingly, the Tigers don't have enough scoring punch to match the Wildcats' offense. Missouri and Florida both held the Tigers to under 1.05 points per possession at home, and I can tell you that very few teams can win with that kind of number. Auburn will be hard-pressed indeed to hold Kentucky below 1.1 points/possession, so the Wildcats just need to be efficient on offense and play confident defense to win. But they can't afford to make Auburn efficient by giving them a lot of runouts and jacking up a bunch of threes.

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