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Game Preview and Open Thread - Auburn vs Kentucky

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The Tigers begin a brutal stretch with the bluest of the blue bloods.

Todd Van Emst

There are six SEC games remaining in the regular season.

Auburn has a two-game lead over Tennessee and Florida, and they hold the tiebreaker over the Volunteers with a date against the Gators on the horizon.

The Tigers are in a fantastic position to take a regular season conference championship if they can just get a few more wins. The magic number shrinks nearly every couple of days.

However, over the final stretch, Auburn’s got to tangle with Florida, a scarily inconsistent Alabama team, the always-hostile Bud Walton Arena, and the bluest of them all, the Kentucky Wildcats.

Yes, Kentucky comes to Auburn Arena tonight for what should be an epic showdown between two teams whose fortunes are going in wildly opposite directions at the moment.

Auburn’s won six of the last seven games, with the only defeat coming a week ago against Texas A&M by a point. Bryce Brown played only 15 minutes before leaving with an injury, and the Aggies won thanks in part to a couple controversial calls down the stretch. The Tigers then rebounded without Brown on Saturday and beat Georgia by 17 at their place.

Kentucky, meanwhile, has fallen out of the rankings after starting the season in the top five. John Calipari’s team has dropped three straight games, none of which look like bad losses at the moment. They lost at Missouri, who’s hotter than hell all of a sudden, then they fell by two at home to Tennessee, and lost in College Station. Those are all forgivable in the greater scheme, but not to fans of Big Blue Nation.

Still, the Wildcats can play. They lost by just four earlier in the season to Kansas, and beat West Virginia in Morgantown during the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. That said, Vanderbilt took them to overtime, and their best SEC win might be a 78-65 defeat of Mississippi State. Of their six SEC wins, they’ve come by an average of only five points per game. Lets not also forget that this will be their second straight road game, and they return home not to an easy game, but to a dangerous Alabama team.

Kentucky will present a size advantage to Auburn, but not in the way that A&M did. They’ll have a couple inches at most positions, with 6’9 forward Kevin Knox leading the way with 15.0 ppg. After that, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Hamidou Diallo are the other double-digit guys, and they’re both big guards at 6’6 and 6’5 respectively. But, there’s something that will play to Auburn’s advantage. The top six scorers on Kentucky’s roster are all freshmen. They’ll have quite a crowd to contend with tonight.

As a team, the Wildcats’ numbers don’t give them much hope either. They’re the worst team in the SEC from behind the arc, ranking last in three-point attempts and makes, and 13th in overall percentage, and while they shoot the third-most attempts from inside the arc, they’re ninth in overall field goal percentage. They get to the foul line (second most attempts in the league), but they can’t hit free throws (third-worst percentage). To top it all off, Kentucky’s eleventh in scoring in the SEC at just under 70 points per game in conference play.

Now, Auburn may have to go without Bryce Brown tonight, but we saw the Jared Harper/Mustapha Heron combo post 43 points in Athens over the weekend, and I know they’re prepared to do it again if necessary.

Hey, it’s a White Out tonight. Come early, be loud, be raucous, wear your white, and celebrate a big win over Kentucky later this evening. It’s going to be electric at Auburn Arena.

HOW TO WATCH AND LISTEN - Auburn vs Kentucky - 8:00 pm CST - Auburn, AL

TV: ESPN2

Radio: Auburn Sports Network