It’s been a rough stretch for Kentucky basketball as the Wildcats have dropped three of four games, and they’re now coming off arguably one of the worst performances in the John Calipari era.
After the dust had settled on the disaster in Gainesville, the once promising season now seems to be one on the brink. The Cats find themselves in third place in the SEC, looking up at South Carolina and Florida. Technically, the Cats are tied with the Gators at 8-2, but in third due to the loss Saturday.
Even with the bad stretch, Kentucky still had an RPI of #7 as of Monday morning, according to Jerry Palm, but that does not cover the cracks in the structure. Kentucky is now 4-5 against teams in the Top 50, and that is going to be what drives the seeding down in the NCAA Tournament. At this point, it appears that Kentucky is playing for a three or a four seed and will require a win over Florida at Rupp.
Fortunately for Kentucky, help is on the way in the form of 9-13 LSU. The Tigers are dreadful as they are losers of nine in a row and eleven of twelve. They are 0-5 against teams in the Top 50 and 2-12 against Top 100 teams. Kentucky did lose to the Tigers last year, but that was a different team.
As the saying goes, LSU is just what the doctor orders. Let's meet the Tigers.
#14 G - SKYLAR MAYES (FR 6'4, 205) 7.7 PPG, 3.8 APG, 2.2 RPG
#2 G - ANTONIO BLAKENEY (SO 6'4, 197) 15.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.8 APG
#0 G - BRANDON SAMPSON (SO 6'5, 193) 10.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.0 APG
#21 F - AARON EPPS (JR 6'10, 220) 5.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 0,4 APG
#1 F - DUOP REATH (JR 6'10, 235) 13.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.0 APG
Freshman PG Skylar Mayes has been solid with an A/TO of close to 2.0, but he is not a great shooter. He hits just 30.4% of his three-pointers and 39.6% overall. He has averaged 12 points a game over the last five and had 22 points in a loss at Arkansas.
Antonio Blakeney is capable of having a big game and hurting you but is still a little inconsistent, He hits 35.1% from long range but has failed to hit double digits in scoring in three of his last five games, He was on against Texas Tech and had 23 points.
Brandon Sampson has picked up the slack in the scoring with 37 points in his last two games. Sampson has a good scoring touch, hitting 48.6% overall and 34.5% from long-range. He has the tendency to disappear at times. Against Texas Tech, he has just three points, but he can get rattled and turn the ball over.
Aaron Epps was inserted in the starting lineup after Craig Victor was dismissed from the team but just does not have the body to be a banger in the paint. At 6'10, he weighs just 220 and has just six rebounds in his last four games. He is not a bad shooter, hitting 46.2% but has not scored in the past two games; He also tends to get into foul trouble.
JUCO transfer Duop Reath has been a pleasant surprise. He posts up well and has a nice mid-range jumper, knocking down 54.1% of his shots, and he can hit the occasional three-pointer. He has two double-doubles in his last five games and averages 1.7 blocks.
#44 F - WAYDE SIMS (FR 6'6, 222) 6.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 0.5 APG
#11 G - JALYN PATTERSON (JR 6'1, 191) 6.0 PPG, 3.5 APG, 3.4 RPG
#3 C - ELBERT ROBINSON (JR 7.1, 290) 2.2 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 0.3 APG
#5 G - KIERAN HAYWARD (FR 6'4, 195) 1.6 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.3 APG
Freshman Wayde Sims was a high school teammate of Skylar Mayes, and they have good chemistry when they are on the court together. Sims is an effective rebounder and likes to bang. Sims shoots 52.6% from the field and 42.9% of his three-pointers and has a good motor.
Jalyn Patterson has never been an accurate shooter and hits just 28.4% of his three-pointers and 38.6% overall. He distributes the ball well and provides some experience and leadership off the bench. He averages 1.3 steals a game and is a solid defender.
Even as a seven footer, Elbert Robinson has not made much of an impact for the Tigers. He has only taken 26 shots all season but hits 61.5% of them. He only has six blocks all year (.3 average), which is unacceptable for a seven-footer.
Freshman Kieran Hayward has struggled with the transition from Austrailia and hits just 23.7% of his shots.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN
Despite the troubles that Kentucky has experienced recently, this should be an easy game for the Wildcats. The Tigers are a decent scoring team, but they do not play defense very well. Opposing teams hit 37.5% of their three-pointers and 46.2% overall. LSU is a pretty good rebounding team, but they turn the ball over way too much and have an overall A/TO ratio below 1.0.
The Tigers come into the game with an RPI rating of #143, so this will not be a repeat or a near-scare like the Georgia game was. The Bulldogs, even though they had an average rating, still have an RPI of #54. A lot of attention will be paid to Calipari's "reboot, " but it is not really needed tonight as LSU is just not a good team.
There really is not a player matchup in which I will take the Tigers over Kentucky in, and the Kentucky bench is much better and deeper. Look for the Wildcats to jump on the Tigers early, and this one should be over by halftime. If this game is a nail-biter, it's officially time to be concerned about this team, reboot or not.
Let's call this one 89-65 for the Wildcats and a return to normalcy for Kentucky basketball.