After an embarrassing 26-point loss to Alabama on Saturday, Kentucky basketball is not in a good state. The fans are frustrated, the team is not a cohesive unit, and the coaching staff looked bewildered over what happened this past weekend.
Fortunately, the Wildcats will have a ‘pick-me-up’ opportunity at Rupp Arena against South Carolina on Tuesday. The Gamecocks are coming off an embarrassing loss of their own, losing 85-42 to Tennessee at home.
Led by new head coach Lamont Paris, the Gamecocks are arguably the worst team in the SEC, currently 7-8 overall and 0-2 in the conference. However, they are kept alive by Meechie Johnson and GG Jackson.
Let’s take a closer look at the matchup.
Limit Offensive Boards
South Carolina ranks towards the bottom of the country in nearly every category. However, there is one area where they have found some success, offensive rebounding.
With an offensive rebounding percentage of 32.7 percent, the Gamecocks rank top 50 in the country. This attack is led primarily by GG Jackson, Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk, and Josh Gray, who individually rank toward the top of the SEC in offensive rebounding percentage.
Fortunately, Kentucky has Oscar Tshiebwe, which coincides with the Wildcats being one of the best rebounding teams in the country. Considering that Kentucky has only allowed two teams to get more than ten offensive rebounds - Michigan State and UCLA - South Carolina should not pose the same threat.
While South Carolina’s roster is not the most talented, they do have a special talent in GG Jackson. Originally committed to North Carolina as part of the 2023 recruiting class, Jackson made the decision to reclassify and commit to South Carolina, his mother’s alma mater.
Jackson is extremely athletic and can run the floor very well, and while he can play inside, he is not the typical ‘back-to-the-basket’ big. In fact, Jackson is shooting a respectable 32 percent from three and even shot 4 of 9 from deep in a December matchup against Eastern Michigan.
This will force the Kentucky defense to extend their defense, which may not be the best matchup for Oscar Tshiebwe, likely resulting in Jacob Toppin getting the defensive assignment.
The five-star freshman is currently averaging 15.7 points and 7.1 rebounds, both top-ten marks in the SEC. However, he is coming off a scoreless performance against Tennessee where Jackson was benched for his body language and effort.
Have Fun, and Win BIG
After the disheartening loss to Alabama, the fanbase and the team need a dominating win. On paper, this is the easiest game that Kentucky has remaining on the schedule.
As mentioned earlier, South Carolina is coming off losing 85-42 to Tennessee, which is also the first top-50 team the Gamecocks have played. While the Volunteers are playing at a much higher level than Kentucky right now, this is a Wildcat team that has thoroughly beaten bad teams.
Given that this game is at Rupp and the talent advantage, Kentucky should and needs to respond in a big way after being trounced by Alabama, if for no other reason than to just have some fun and find joy, something this team hasn’t had much of lately.
Time/Date: 7:00 pm ET on Tuesday, January 10th, 2023.
Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky.
TV Channel: ESPN2
Announcers: Karl Ravech, Jimmy Dykes
Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the UK radio network call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
Replay: SEC Network (check local listings).
Odds: DraftKings Sportsbook has Kentucky favored by 20 points with an over/under of 132. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives the Wildcats their best chance to win a game for the remainder of the season at 97.5 percent. Bart Torvik is just marginally less confident in the Cats at 95%. KenPom has it at 93%.