An injury-riddled Auburn returns home today to take on the Kentucky Wildcats in the friendly confines of Auburn Arena. The news couldn't have been much worse on the injury front, as we discovered yesterday. We're now stuck with the prospect of finishing out the 2015/16 basketball season extremely short-handed.
This Kentucky squad isn't quite as good as last season's, but they're still one of the tops - if not THE top - of the SEC. They have three losses on the year to UCLA, Ohio State, and LSU. LSU beat them fairly handily in Baton Rouge a few weeks back. They're 3-1 in conference play.
Auburn, meanwhile, is 1-3. It's hard to see that improving to 2-3 in this game. I do believe that the Auburn team who began the season would have a decent shot at the upset, but not this team as it's currently playing right now.
While the Tigers are bigger than they were last season, Kentucky is still going to have a size advantage across the board. That may not be the case in the starting line-ups, but Kentucky does have a lot more size they can draw from. Moreover, Auburn's big men haven't exactly been playing very well of late. Horace Spencer gets into foul trouble too easily. Cinmeon Bowers can't seem to make a simple layup, and Tyler Harris has struggled with foul trouble at times, as well. Harris, though, has been doing much better over the last few games with this.
In order for the Tigers to win this game, they're going to have to avoid the bad passes, sloppy turnovers, and the three point shooters are going to need to have hot hands. They're also going to have to fight for more second chance opportunities and not just concede the ball to Kentucky on every offensive possession.
Auburn's starting lineup for this game should be similar to the last few games: Spencer, Harris, Granger, Canty, and Lang (now that he's healthy, again). Auburn's bench is extremely thin, though. It consists of Bowers, Bryce Brown, Devin Waddell (a former walk-on), Patrick Keim (a walk-on) and maybe New Williams. Williams is supposed to be limited with a knee injury of his own, but he's still been put on the court out of necessity at times in the last two games.
Kentucky's projected starters are not large - they have two big men and three much shorter ones - but they're still Kentucky and they still do what they do very well. They aren't the team that nearly went undefeated last season, but they replaced the departed talent with more talent. Their two starting freshmen are averaging double-digit points per game. Anytime the Wildcats come to town, you know you're going to be playing one of the very best.
Hopefully with school back in session the students show up in The Jungle and are ready to raise some hell. Kentucky always brings a big crowd of their own, but hopefully Auburn fans haven't been selling them their tickets. A raucous home environment can go a long way towards lifting up the team when it gets on a roll. It sure would be nice to end Kentucky's winning streak in Auburn. The Tigers have never beaten the Wildcats in Auburn Arena.
Oh, and there's the little matter of a certain Kentucky Assistant Coach who will be returning to Auburn Arena for the first time since he was fired from Auburn a little under two years ago. I'm certain he'll get quite a "welcome" to town, too. It would be quite nice to see him leave the Arena with his head hanging down. He knows what losing in Auburn Arena is like, since he did quite a bit of it.
How to Watch, Stream, Listen:
When: 4pm Eastern / 3pm Central
Listen: Auburn IMG Network