- Time: 7:00 pm ET
- Date: November 17th
- Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky
- TV Channel: The SEC Network has tonight’s TV coverage.
- Announcers: Tom Hart and Pat Bradley are on the call.
- Online Stream: WatchESPN, ESPN+, SEC Network+, or the ESPN app.
- Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens will have the UK radio network call on WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1, and the UK Sports Network.
- Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).
- Rosters: UK | SCSU
- Stats To Know: UK | SCSU
- Team Sheets: UK | SCSU
- Live Stats
- Odds: Kentucky is a whopping 41-point favorite vs. the Bulldogs, per DraftKings Sportsbook. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives the Wildcats a 98.8% chance of winning, and Bart Torvik has it at 99%. KenPom gives Kentucky a 99.95% chance of winning.
- Predictions: TeamRankings has Kentucky winning 93-52. Bart Torvik went with a 91-61 margin for the Cats to win in a landslide. KenPom projects a 91-54 victory, Kentucky!
Located in Orangeburg, South Carolina, South Carolina State plays in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference - the same as previous opponent Howard, where they are predicted to finish second to last in the conference.
While the program had success from the late 1970s to the early 2000s, with five NCAA Tournament appearances, the Bulldogs have not had much since. In fact, in the last dozen years, SC State has just one winning season.
The outlook doesn’t look to be great for this season either. In their most recent game, the Bulldogs lost to Duquesne by 25, a team that Kentucky beat by 25 last week. Furthermore, KenPom has them ranked 347th out of 363 teams.
With that said, Thursday night should not be close, so expect the Wildcats to experiment and try things ahead of their game against the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Sunday.
Let’s look at three things to watch for.
Will CJ Fredrick and Antonio Reeves regain form?
Going into Tuesday night’s game against Michigan State, CJ Fredrick and Antonio Reeves were the team’s leading scorers and top offensive threats. However, they looked to be a shell of themselves against the Spartans.
Combined, the duo was 3-14 from the field and scored just 10 points. However, unlike the first two games of the season where they played alongside each other, forcing defenses to guard both of them, they play just 4 minutes and 39 seconds together.
With Tshiebwe now back in the lineup, an interior offensive presence, it should help with spacing and help the two get better looks. It is much more difficult to stop Fredrick, Reeves, and Tshiebwe together, rather than just a combination of them.
To prepare for Gonzaga, Fredrick and Reeves find their shot and offensive rhythm with a fully healthy roster, against an inferior opponent.
Frontcourt productivity outside of Toppin and Tshiebwe
Looking at the roster on paper, Kentucky looks to have a loaded frontcourt with Damion Collins, Ugonna Onyenso, Jacob Toppin, Oscar Tshiebwe, and Lance Ware.
While there is certainly talent there, there was not a lot of production outside of Toppin and Tshiebwe on Tuesday. The duo combined for a total of 32 points and 22 rebounds, whereas the other three combined 4 points and 4 rebounds.
With that said, minutes played do need to be considered. Toppin and Tshiebwe played over 30 minutes each, with Onyenso playing just 1 minute. However, Collins and Ware, who are returnees, played 15 minutes or more and had two of the worst +/- on the team with -13 and -12.
While Toppin and Tshiebwe will most likely play around 30 minutes per game, if not more, they will provide the bulk of production. However, if there is an injury or foul trouble - as was the case against Michigan State - the frontcourt depth needs to step up,
In a game where a large lead should give them the opportunity for plenty of minutes - and in Onyenso’s case help him develop as a freshman - they need to take advantage.
Following the Michigan State game, there were plenty of complaints about lineups, and for good reason.
Most of the lineups limited the offense and made it look similar to last season when it was stagnant and difficult to score. When the full team has not practiced together for six weeks, that is understandable to an extent.
Offensively, the best lineup is clearly Wheeler-Wallace-Fredrick-Reeves-Tshiebwe. That is because Tshiebwe will get his just off rebounds alone; Wheeler is the best distributor; Wallace can get to the rim; Fredrick and Reeves are elite shooters. Defensively, this team can nearly plug and play anyone.
With that said, Toppin, Livingston, and Collins will play consistent minutes, and each impact the game in their own way, but can limit the offense and its spacing at times.
John Calipari needs to find lineups that allow players to play to their strengths and the team's strength as a whole. There is not a better opportunity to experiment with lineups than Thursday night’s game.