The Kentucky Wildcats improved to 23-0 with an impressive, grinding victory against arch nemesis Florida. They now face the LSU Tigers, who have slipped up after an impressive 6-2 start to conference play. Despite those recent disappointing losses, the Tigers still pose one of the toughest games remaining on Kentucky’s schedule.
There’s an awful lot to like about these Wildcats. They don’t necessarily have the raw star power of previous John Calipari coached Kentucky teams, but they have as much depth as any college basketball roster in recent memory. Calipari runs what he calls the “platoon system”, where he roles out groups of five. Only two players are averaging more than 25 minutes per game. Compare that against their opponents in this game, who have five starters averaging more than 28 minutes of court time per game.
A lot of the responsibility for this team will fall on Aaron Harrison and twin brother Andrew Harrison, who bring NCAA tournament experience and an understanding of how to run this offense under pressure. Not to mention the fact that both are pretty good defensive players a well. It might just be Kentucky’s front court that sets it apart though. In particular, freshman forward Karl-Anthony Towns has really come into his own in recent weeks. He’s averaging 15 points and seven rebounds per game, while earning more and more trust and responsibility from “Coach Cal”.
Kentucky’s size causes a lot of teams problems, but LSU might be one of the few groups that can compete. Sophomore forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey are about as good as any duo in college basketball. Mickey in particular has been a disruptive force all season averaging 17 points, 11 rebounds and an incredible 3.7 blocks per game.
The combination of Mickey and Martin will pose a serious challenge to Kentucky’s defensive units. They can both hit jump shots, dribble effectively and are aggressive under the basket. They are well supported by a trio of under-rated guards; Josh Gray, Tim Quarterman and Keith Hornsby. The Tigers might not have a ton of depth, but they match up as well as any team in the conference against the Wildcats and they are going to test Calipari’s young team tonight.
Betting Preview: Kentucky (-10) at LSU
This is a real betting opportunity. Yes, there’s every reason to throw a lot of points at Kentucky and their 23-0 record when it comes to odds-making right now, but this is a challenging road matchup. The Wildcats have been finding ways to win, but no team has gone unbeaten since the Indiana Hoosiers in 1976 an there are reasons for that.
LSU should be able to exploit the inside and they’ll give Kentucky a tough, physical game. Throw in the fact that this is a team badly in need of a marquee win after disappointing losses to Auburn and Mississippi State. Tonight’s matchup has all the ingredients needed for an upset.
The Pick: LSU (+10) (www.betonline.ag)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 24-17