Auburn looks for revenge Saturday afternoon against Kentucky at Rupp Arena. I traded a few questions and answers with Glenn Logan of A Sea of Blue to get some insight on the contest.
When Auburn and Kentucky squared off on Jan. 19 at Auburn Arena, the 'Cats cruised to a 75-53 win. What did Kentucky do right in that game? Did the result surprise you?
The main thing Kentucky did right in the last game was shoot the basketball well, take care of the offensive glass, and defend the 2-point shot. Kentucky got a lot of help with Auburn going 0-15 from 3-point distance. I was a little surprised at the margin, but I thought going in that Kentucky had a good chance to win that game.
It may seem like a good idea to praise Kentucky's 3-point defense, but the fact that the Tigers got off 15 suggests it was more a case of a) Auburn taking bad shots and b) missing them. The most rational theory of 3-point defense I have read suggests that the actual defense a team plays against the three is, on the whole, irrelevant. The best 3-point defense is forcing teams to put it on the floor and take 2-point shots.
How have the Wildcats fared since that game? Is the team trending in the right or wrong direction?
Kentucky is trending in the right direction, but it hasn't been by any means a thing of beauty. Still, the Wildcats are winning, and their road record at 4-2 in the SEC is really quite good. The team seems to be improving offensively, although they still have stretches in games where they go suddenly silent, and give teams a chance to get back into games that are otherwise comfortable.
Willie Cauley-Stein is also back for Kentucky, and he could not play at Auburn, so that really helps Kentucky's depth and rebounding. Cauley-Stein provides a lot of extra energy off the bench.
What do you think about Saturday's game? Will it be a repeat of the first contest, or will it be competitive? Why? What's your prediction?
It takes a remarkable performance to win in Rupp Arena, either by the visitor or by the Wildcats. Kentucky has had one of each so far this year; a remarkably poor performance against Baylor and a remarkably good performance by Texas A&M. Although Auburn is coming off a victory over the Crimson Tide -- an achievement Kentucky could not accomplish -- they are a team that has managed only one road win all year.
I think Auburn is in a tough spot today, and I don't like their chances of pulling the upset. I'm not sanguine about the margin, because I don't expect Auburn to go 0-anything at the arc, and I know they play hard and that Kentucky is much more vulnerable this year than last. But this is Rupp Arena, Kentucky is getting better, and those factors combine to make an upset unlikely.
I'm going with 72-60.