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Keep your enemies closer, hoops edition: Kentucky

Auburn hosts Kentucky on Saturday evening for what promises to be one of the bigger games of the season. College and Mag taps A Sea of Blue for the inside scoop.


We chatted with Glenn of SB Nation's Kentucky blog, A Sea of Blue, to get their take on the Tigers-Wildcats matchup. We answered their questions here. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. CT Saturday at Auburn Arena. The game will be televised on ESPNU, and audio broadcast is available on the Auburn IMG Network / XM 199.

Knowing that this team is different personnel-wise from last season, how is the season shaping up in terms of your general expectations?

Personally, and for most of the Big Blue Nation, I think our expectations were unreasonably high. As a result, we're suffering a bit of disappointment at the moment, probably on the order of how the North Carolina Tar Heels are feeling. We did not expect Kentucky to lose to Baylor and Notre Dame, and those two losses have really hit our RPI hard.

We have not lost hope, by any means, but we allowed ourselves to believe that the ball would keep rolling on as strong as ever despite solid indications that might not happen.

As the season has progressed, what are the things that have improved? Are there areas that still need improvement?

The team looks more like a team now, instead of just a collection of AAU stars. In the last game or so, we have begun to see the offense look like an offense, some emerging possibilities in the pick and roll that we hadn't seen earlier this year. Nerlens Noel has established himself as worthy of the hype, although his scoring contribution and post play need to improve soon.

Defensively, this team has been very strange. Against much weaker teams, Kentucky's defense has been ridiculously good, and against better teams, it has been just average. That needs to be more consistent. Also, Kentucky needs more consistency in offensive execution, as all the individual talent in the world won't help you against a team that plays defense together.

How do you think UK will fare in conference play? What are your thoughts on a postseason?

Honestly, I don't know. We just got word that one of our starters is injured and had a minor knee procedure, and is likely to miss some time. If Kentucky is to wind up with anything north of a six seed, they absolutely must defeat some ranked teams, and those are few in the SEC. UK must win the 2 games out of the three games we have between Florida and Missouri (2 with Florida, 1 with Missouri). Kentucky needs to go 14-4 or better, which is doable, but not easy.

Who is the most underrated Wildcat?

I'm not sure any of them qualify as underrated. It's hard to be underrated at Kentucky. I would say the guy who has been most surprising to us is Willie Cauley-Stein, but calling him underrated just isn't quite correct.

I have to ask this. Do you love Nerlens Noel's hair as much as we do?

Oh, yes. It's really great to see the 1980's do make a return, first of all. That was when I was in my "prime," my mid to late 20's, and the whole high-top fade thing was just coming into popularity then. I remember DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince from back in the day when MTV was actually watchable, and every time I see Nerlens' hairdo, it takes me back. Besides, who wouldn't like a player with the UK logo carved into his hair?

Give us your prediction for the game.

I think it will be very competitive with Cauley-Stein out, and Auburn has found ways to be very troublesome to their SEC opponents. I'm going to predict a narrow Kentucky victory, perhaps 72-66.