The Kentucky Wildcats are now off to the best start in the 112 years of Kentucky basketball history, 26-0. The Wildcats now have an opportunity to extend that winning streak and their undefeated season in Rupp Arena today against the Auburn Tigers. For the first time since February 8th of 2011, Bruce Pearl will once again set foot in storied Rupp Arena as the coach of yet another "orange" team. It should be very interesting, indeed.
|When:||7:00 pm 21 February 2015|
|Place:||Rupp Arena, Lexington, KY|
|Radio:||UK Sports Network|
Season so far for Auburn:
Overall Record: 13-18
This was always going to be a rebuilding year for Auburn with the hiring of coach Bruce Pearl, and rebuilding for a team like Auburn is usually a pretty horrible thing. But Pearl managed to pull together a team that made his first rebuilding year look something like the last several years at Auburn, and that, believe it or not, should be an encouraging sign for the Tiger faithful.
Auburn has managed significant upsets against LSU on the road, Xavier in double-overtime, Georgia on the road and against Oregon St. at a neutral site.
Auburn’s record against Kentucky could be described most accurately by two words; abject futility. Auburn and Kentucky have met 106 times since 1921, and Auburn has managed 17 victories (0.16), and their last victory against the Wildcats was at the turn of the 21st century, 15 years ago.
Auburn’s most successful run against Kentucky was between 1987 and 1990, where the Tigers went 4-5 against the Wildcats.
|&||Injured, not available|
Source: Auburn Athletics and Statsheet.com
|Rank and Records||AU||UK|
|Strength of Schedule||#63||#23|
|RPI Top 50||2-4||9-0|
Auburn Team Notes
- Auburn is an above average offensive team, but a pretty poor defensive team.
- The Tigers like to play the game fast, but not at blazing speed.
- Auburn was a poor ballhandling team early, but has been taking better care of it in the SEC.
- The Tigers get to the line a lot, second only to Mississipi St. and slightly better than Kentucky.
- Three point shooting is the calling card of Auburn. They are the best in the conference at almost 38% as a team, and 38% of their shots are threes.
- Auburn is a very poor 2-point shooting team (41%).
- Defense is not something the Tigers do well at all.
- Auburn is the worst rebounding team in the league by a mile.
- Auburn forces a lot of turnovers due to their press.
Auburn Player notes
- Cinmeon Bowers is the stud on this team. He is the third leading scorer and one of the best rebounders in the nation, 16th in OR% and 24th in DR%. He’s quite a load inside, but is not particularly efficient as a scorer due to his lack of length and ordinary athleticism. But he’s a big, strong man.
- K.T. Harrell is Auburn’s only returning starter and leading scorer. He’s deadly from the arc at almost 45%, and he gets to the line a lot.
- K.C. Ross-Miller you might remember as a Kentucky recruit during the Gillispie misadventure. He’s been all over the nation playing for various teams — Auburn is his third — and he’s playing for the Tigers as a graduate student. Miller is a great defender but only an average 3-point shooter. He plays the point for Auburn
- Antoine Mason is the penetrator for the Tigers, 70th in the nation in fouls drawn. He’s also a lethal 3-point shooter at 41%.
- Jordon Granger is the long defensive stopper, who leads the team in blocks and shoots a very good percentage inside. He can also make the three, shooting 38% from the arc.
- Tahj Shamsid-Deen was a major reserve and returning starter at point guard, but he has been injured and is out for the season.
- Alex Poythress is out for the season with a torn ACL
- Matthew Atewe is out for the season with a shin injury
- Tahj Shamsid-Deen is out for the season with a shoulder injury suffered against Texas A&M
Auburn is a weak team made weaker by significant injuries. Bruce Pearl has done yeoman’s work getting them to this many wins, and may have pulled off one of his best coaching jobs ever with this team. Auburn will press and run as much as possible against Kentucky, and when I say they will play like they have nothing to lose, I mean it, because they don’t — they have no shot at any kind of post season. Beating the Wildcats at home and ending a legendary winning streak would be very much the closest they will get this season to a significant achievement in college basketball; and it would certainly be one.
I cannot emphasize enough how important protecting the 3-point line is for Kentucky today. Auburn has a significant amount of perimeter firepower, and the Wildcats absolutely must force Auburn into the paint. Transition defense will be critical, as the Tigers love to get open looks from three in transition, before the defense is set. The one way Auburn can pull off the upset is if Kentucky lets them make ten or twelve three-pointers.
Offensively, the Tigers have almost nothing to stop Kentucky. They don’t have the size, quickness, or length to defend the Wildcats inside, and they don’t have enough size at the guard position to protect against drives to the rim by Kentucky’s huge guards. Kentucky’s goal should be to force Auburn to make everything from the midrange, and even if the Tigers shoot 50% from there, they don’t have enough firepower to outscore the Wildcats.
This is an uncomplicated game against a weak basketball team with a very good coach. Auburn will not quail if Kentucky gets off to a big lead, they are used to that. This will be a good test to see if the Wildcats have finally learned how to stop letting off the gas and finishing a weaker opponent off. If the Tigers do give Kentucky a run for their money, it will be because the Wildcats disrespected them. I don’t expect that to happen.