Kentucky Wildcats (5-10) at Missouri Tigers (11-3)
- Game Time: 7 pm ET on Wednesday, February 3rd.
- Location: Mizzou Arena in Columbia, Missouri.
- TV Channel: ESPN2 will have coverage of tonight’s game.
- Announcers: The Karl Ravech - Jimmy Dykes duo will call tonight’s 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.
- Replay: WatchESPN and the SEC Network (check local listings).
- Rosters: UK | MIZZ
- Last Game Box Scores: UK | MIZZ
- Stats to Know: UK | MIZZ
- Odds: Missouri is a 4.5-point favorite. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives Missouri a 70.2% chance at winning. KenPom gives the Tigers a 64% chance of victory.
- Predictions: KenPom has Mizzou winning 69-65, while TeamRankings is going with a 72-67 win for the Tigers, while numberFire has the home team coming away with a 73-67 victory.
Fresh off of a loss to Alabama and a canceled SEC/Big 12 matchup against Texas on Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats will be back in action on Wednesday against the Missouri Tigers. The game was rescheduled from Tuesday after Kentucky needed an extra day to recover from its COVID-19 issues.
Missouri is coming into the game off of a win over TCU on Saturday where they passed the century mark in a 102-98 overtime victory. That came after an 88-82 loss at Auburn, which was just the third defeat Mizzou has suffered this season.
Kentucky limps into this game with a 5-10 record coming off of another embarrassing loss at Alabama. The embarrassment had nothing to do with the Crimson Tide, who have a solid team this year, but more of how Kentucky lost with so little offensive production from...anyone.
The Wildcats have faced turnover problems and a stalled offense in all but two games (Florida and LSU) this season, and unfortunately there is nothing to lead fans to believe the offense will find its way anytime soon. Kentucky’s best chance at a victory will be to do what they did at Alabama, to muck it up on the defensive end and hope teams have a poor shooting night.
The Tigers have been one of the biggest surprises in all of college basketball this season, sporting an 11-3 record with all three of their losses coming to conference teams. Their lone home loss was to Tennessee on Dec. 31st by a 73-53 margin. Missouri returned the favor by winning 73-64 less than a month later in Knoxville.
Missouri’s best win of the season came at home vs. Illinois, who was ranked sixth nationally at the time and are now ranked 12th. The Tigers also have wins over Arkansas and Oregon teams projected to maker the NCAA Tournament.
The Tigers are now ranked No. 18 in the nation, as they have surpassed their expectations for the season and become a formidable opponent with a shot to make a run in March.
Missouri is led by junior guard Xavier Pinson who is averaging 15.1 points per game. But the Tigers have a balanced attack with four different Tigers averaging double figures, including senior forward Jeremiah Tilmon (13.9 ppg and 8.1 rpg), one of the best big men in the conference.
Tilmon currently ranks third in the SEC in PER (26.8), first in effective field-goal percentage (66.1%), first in total rebound percentage (16.2%) and sixth in box plus/minus (8.4). So if Kentucky is going to beat Missouri, the frontcourt needs to step up in a big way to contain Tilmon, who is coming off a 33-point, 11-rebound performance in the OT win over TCU.
The Tigers have averaged nearly 85 points per game in their last four outings, and it will be a tall task for Kentucky to keep up with that pace.
In putting up so many points, you would think that Missouri puts up a lot of shots from behind the three-point line. However, they only have three players with more than 50 attempts from deep, and only one of those guys, Dru Smith, is hitting those at a descent clip (38%).
This has been the longest break the Wildcats have had since mid-December. You would hope that the time has been put to good use in fine-tuning Kentucky’s struggling offense. But since the break has been due to COVID protocol, we do not know how active the team has been. We also do not know who may you may not have been available for team activities in the last week.
Missouri is currently the second-highest ranked remaining team on Kentucky’s schedule. So if John Calipari and his team are in search of quality wins, this is one of their final chances to get one in.
As of Tuesday, the Wildcats rank 74th in NET, which suggests they’re not as far from the NCAA Tournament bubble as you’d think a 5-10 team would be. And since Missouri (30th) and Tennessee (ninth) are both in the top 30, a sweep of them this week would seemingly put Kentucky right on the bubble.
Accomplishing this would obviously be a small miracle given this team’s struggles, but it is nice to think that the Cats still have some slim hope for an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament.
Regardless of how close Kentucky really is to the bubble, everyone agrees that almost every game is a must-win at this point if the Cats want that to become a reality.