Kentucky is set to meet its best match so far in SEC play on Saturday.
The Wildcats will take on No. 24 South Carolina in Rupp Arena in a battle of top-25 teams. South Carolina head coach Frank Martin has assembled quite a team this year, as the Gamecocks are 15-3, and 5-0 in conference play. They sit half a game behind Kentucky, and they're the only team besides Kentucky that's undefeated in SEC play.
South Carolina doesn't really have an individual standout on this team. PJ Dozier ranks fourth in the SEC in steals with 1.9 per-game, and Chris Silva ranks fifth in the SEC in field goal percentage, shooting 56%, but other than that you're not going to find a Gamecock on many stat leaderboards.
South Carolina's real strength is how well they defend as a team. They rank fourth in the nation in points allowed, giving up just 59.4 points per-game, and they average nearly two more steals than Kentucky.
But they're ranked extremely low in everything else, and Kentucky tops them in points per-game, field goal percentage, rebounds, assists and blocks.
Kentucky may be miles ahead of them in many statistical categories, but the problem is that the Gamecocks have Kentucky's Kryptonite, and that's a good defense. That's exactly how Louisville beat them; they didn't let them run in transition, they got back, and they forced Kentucky to run a half court offense, which led to tough contested shots and far fewer points than usual.
If Kentucky is able to get out and run in this one, they'll get to flex their muscle against a top-25 team, showing everyone they're definitely miles ahead of the rest of the SEC. But if South Carolina defends well and slows them down, look for a very close game. South Carolina could even get some help from the officials.
While foul calls have been evenly terrible between both teams in Kentucky's recent games, slowing down the action by calling so many fouls hurts Kentucky because of their up-tempo style. This is one of those games in which if the score is in the 80s, it favors Kentucky, but if it's in the 60s, it favors South Carolina.
Look for home-court advantage to play a major role. With it being in Lexington, there won't be as much momentum mounted for South Carolina if they hold Kentucky to a lower number of points.
Here is everything you’ll need to watch and follow this matchup:
South Carolina Gamecocks (15-3, 5-0 in SEC) at Kentucky Wildcats (16-2, 6-0 in SEC)
Game Time: 6 p.m. EST on Jan. 21
Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.
Live Online Stream: Watch ESPN
Radio: UK Radio Network with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt
Odds: UK opened as a 13-point home favorite over the Gamecocks. KenPom projected UK to be a 13-point favorite, though they have USC covering the spread...
Score Prediction: KenPom projects a 79-67 win by Kentucky and gives the Cats an 88-percent chance of winning.