ESPN College Gameday will be coming to Auburn for a basketball game for the very first time on Saturday. The SEC wins leader will host the Kentucky Wildcats for a rematch of last season’s Elite Eight matchup between the two schools.
It had appeared that the Wildcats had hit their stride after the big win at Texas Tech on Saturday. However, it took a valiant comeback to get a win at home over the helpless Vanderbilt Commodores on Wednesday.
Nick Richards is carrying this team right now. As he spent most of the first half against Vandy on the bench, Kentucky struggled mightily across the board. As important as he is to what the Wildcats are doing, other guys need to step up when he gets in foul trouble, which is sure to happen again down the final stretch of the season.
This game has been circled on many schedules for the entire season. In a year that the SEC was supposed to have several good teams, the Auburn Tigers emerged early as a dominant team that was one of the last in the country to pick up their first loss. Since that time, the Tigers have looked very beatable.
Auburn is led in scoring by senior guard Samir Doughty, who has really stepped up this season into a leadership role. He averages 14.3 points per game to go with his team-leading 1.2 steals.
Fellow senior guard J’Von McCormick leads the Tigers in assists at 4.7 to go with 11.1 points per contest.
Senior center Austin Wiley leads the team on the glass with 9.1 points per game, while also putting up more than 10 points per game.
Wiley is one of the more intriguing matchups for Richards so far this season, and probably the best one to watch outside of when Kentucky plays Florida (Kerry Blackshear). Wiley is almost as tall as Richards (6-11) and he outweighs him around 15 pounds. However, Auburn does not typically take an inside-out approach. So it’s unclear how much Wiley will have the ball in his hands.
The Tigers shoot a lot of threes, but they really do not have prolific shooting on the roster. Doughty has hit less than 30% of his 111 attempts. David Purifoy is not much better at 30.7% on 101 attempts. The guys to look out for from deep based on this season’s performance are Anfernee McLemore (36.5%) and Jamal Johnson (45.6%).
While the Tigers are a senior-heavy team, freshman forward Isaac Okoro is regarded as their best NBA prospect, as he’s widely projected as a first-round pick this year. The 6-6, 225-pound Okoro averages 13 points on 53.4% shooting to go with 4.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and one block per game.
Auburn may be 18-2, but they’ve been widely erratic at times and struggled to beat teams that shouldn’t have a chance. When the Tigers are hot, they can beat just about anyone.
However, when the deep shots are not falling, they really struggle against even some of the weaker teams they’ve played (they beat South Alabama by 1, Furman by 3 in OT, and Ole Miss by 1 in double-OT).
Kentucky Wildcats (16-4) at Auburn Tigers (18-2)
Game Time: 6 pm EST on February 1st
Location: Auburn Arena in Auburn, Alabama
TV Channel: The game can be seen on ESPN.
Announcers: Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas, and Holly Rowe will be on the call.
Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM, 98.1 FM in Lexington, and on the UK Sports Network.
Online Stream: WatchESPN
Odds: ESPN BPI gives Auburn a 66.7% chance of victory. KenPom gives the home team a 61% chance of victory.