College Basketball Game Of The Week: No. 12 Kentucky vs. No. 2 Auburn
What is better than an SEC showdown between two college basketball powerhouses on a Saturday afternoon, even before the two NFL divisional round games kickoff?
Kentucky comes into this contest sitting at 15-3 and 5-1 in SEC play, John Calipari's squad has been able to overcome three fairly early losses to the 2021-2022 season, including a dreadful loss to unranked Notre Dame back on Dec. 11. The Wildcats are now on the brink of re-entering the AP Top 10 for the first time since early in the season.
Since that loss to the Fighting Irish, the Wildcats have won eight of their last nine, with a loss only coming to No. 13 LSU on the road. They were able to garner wins over other top SEC programs, including Tennessee, in which they scored 107 points, and a close victory earlier this week on the road vs 15-2 Texas A&M.
Kentucky's quick turnaround from last season's major disappointment has been largely in part due to junior forward Oscar Tshiebwe and freshman guard TyTy Washington Jr.'s strong play on offense, as they have contributed 16.1 and 14.2 points per game, respectively.
Tshiebwe has also been stellar on defense for the Wildcats, as he has been averaging 14.8 rebounds per game. Junior guard Sahvir Wheeler has also contributed nicely on offense with 7.1 assists per game.
As a team, the Wildcats have scored a stupendous 82.9 points per game and have shot 49.8% from the field, which is both good enough for eighth best in the nation.
Surely, Calipari's crew should be up for the fight against Auburn.
Currently, at 17-1 and a perfect 6-0 in the SEC, Bruce Pearl's team is enjoying a big season and, if they continue their success, they should be well on their way to their second March Madness Final Four appearance since 2019.
The Tigers’ only defeat this season came back on Nov. 24 in the hands of No. 22 UConn at the time in a thrilling 115-109 double-overtime stunner at home.
But, since then, it has been all winning for this squad, including resume-bolster wins over other SEC forces LSU, Alabama and Florida.
Freshman forward Jabari Smith is the team's leading scorer with 15.8 points per game, while sophomore guard Wendell Green Jr. isn't too far behind at 13.1 points per game. Sophomore guard K.D. Johnson is averaging a respectable 12.8 points per game on the season.
On defense, sophomore forward Walker Kessler leads the team in both rebounds (7.4 per game) at blocked shots (4.2 per game).
Despite currently being the second-best team in the nation, Auburn only has the 20th highest-scoring offense in the nation, averaging 80.7 points per game -- but that is only two points behind the Wildcats. So, the Tigers will most definitely have their work cut out for them in this one.
This should be a good one, considering the teams have split the last eight meetings dating back to 2018. The Wildcats are winners of two of the last three matchups, including the most recent contest last February. However, the Tigers have won four of the past five meetings at home, including the past two matchups.
The game will be played Saturday, Jan. 22 at 1:00 p.m. EST, and it will be streamed live on CBS.
Christian Smith is a fourth-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org