Kentucky Wildcats (4-7) at Auburn Tigers (7-6)
- Game Time: 2 pm EST on Saturday, January 16th.
- TV Channel: Today’s game can be seen on ESPN.
- Location: Auburn Arena in Auburn, Alabama.
- Announcers: Karl Ravech and Jimmy Dykes will be calling the action.
- Online Stream: WatchESPN and fuboTV (free trial).
- Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM, 98.1 FM in Lexington and on the UK Sports Network.
- Satellite Radio: XM: 191 | Internet: 962
- Replay: WatchESPN and the SEC Network (check local listings).
- Rosters: UK | AU
- Last Game Box Scores: UK | AU
- Stats to Know: UK | AU
- Odds: Kentucky opened as a one-point favorite, but the line has shifted dramatically, as Auburn is now favored by 3.5 points. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives Kentucky a narrow 50.7% chance at winning. KenPom gives the Cats a 51% chance of winning.
- Prediction: TeamRankings has Auburn winning 75-72, while numberFire has the Tigers coming away with a 73-68 win. KenPom projects a 71-70 victory for Kentucky.
While we wait for the game, check out the latest episode of BBN Gameday.
Did you try to secure a next generation video game console for Christmas?
If you did, you know the drill. You go to a website when you get a stock alert, you keep clicking “add to cart” over and over and getting error messages. But every week or so, you would get to the payment page. You have a PS5 in your cart, you have entered payment information, and you click to finish the purchase.
And then...you are back where you started. That is what it feels like to be a Kentucky basketball fan this season.
The six-game losing streak was hard to watch. The offense was abysmal. The hustle was impossible to identify. And the tournament hopes for this team went down the toilet pretty quickly. But once we got rid of 2020, the Cats seemed to turn things around. A double-overtime victory over Mississippi State and a narrow win against Vanderbilt later and there is a spark of hope.
And then the Wildcats arrived in Gainesville and looked like a different team completely. They shared the ball, they got easy looks, and they hit shots from deep. They pounced defensively and played like a unit on that end of the floor. It looked like they had turned the corner, Kentucky fans were feeling much better about the season.
And then, Alabama landed in Lexington.
Kentucky turned the ball over 17 times and only had seven assists on Tuesday, taking a major step back in their development. It was like a stomach punch to all Kentucky fans. And that makes Saturday’s game against Auburn all the more important to show that the team is interested in correcting mistakes.
Auburn comes into the game with a record of 7-6, with their best win coming over the Memphis Tigers. However, they have lost their first four SEC games before taking down Georgia on Wednesday.
Auburn plays a very similar style to Alabama, shooting a ton of three-pointers. Both Allen Flanigan (40%) and Justin Powell (44.2%) are shooting the lights out, while Jaylin Williams (36.4%) and Jamal Johnson (36.1%) aren’t far behind. Those four are averaging a combined 46.8 points per game.
Powell has actually missed the last three games with a head injury, but the Kentucky native by way of North Oldham returned to practice this week, so expect him to play Saturday.
And that is not to mention the fact that the team’s best offensive player, Sharife Cooper, made his debut last Saturday. He has averaged 27 points in his first two outings, leading the Tigers in both games. He has only hit 1-11 three-pointers so far, but there is little doubt that he is due to hit better from deep.
It is tough to say that Auburn is struggling at 1-4 in the SEC since Cooper just starting seeing minutes. This is a completely different team, and it will be a challenge that Kentucky has not seen so far. Cooper is a stud that will be nearly impossible to contain, as he has shown in both of his first two outings. I am sure that he will be defended by a committee of Wildcats, but they will surely have to step up to make sure he does not send them home with a loss.
One other player to watch for is freshman JT Thor. The 6-10 forward was someone Kentucky recruited but never went all-in with before he landed at Auburn. Thor is averaging 8.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game. He’s reached double-figures in three of his last four games. Despite shooting 26.1% from three-point range this season, Thor has hit 3/6 from deep over his last three games.
There’s no question this is going to be a major challenge for a Kentucky team looking to rebound from arguably its worst performance of the season. Will Keion Brooks Jr. bounce back after a rough game? Will Terrence Clarke be available? And will the offense look more like it did at Florida or will the Wildcats continue to set basketball back several decades with the offensive approach?
All of these questions will be answered on Saturday at 2 p.m.