Tuesday’s college basketball schedule is highlighted by a top-25 showdown in the SEC between the no. 16 Kentucky Wildcats and the no. 21 LSU Tigers. The two teams are a combined 23-3 this season. At home, the Tigers are a slight two-point favorite, with the over/under set at 140.5 points.
The Wildcats opened the season with a loss to Duke but then rattled off seven straight wins. John Caliper’s team was tripped up again with a loss to Notre Dame. However, the Cats have won four straight since that game, including a blowout over North Carolina and a win over Missouri in their SEC opener.
As for the Tigers, they went a perfect 12-0 during their non-conference season. That includes wins over the likes of Liberty, Belmont, Penn State, Wake Forest, and Georgia Tech. However, LSU lost its SEC opener to Auburn last week, so the Tigers risk falling to 0-2 in league play with a loss on Tuesday.
After losing three players who averaged at least 16 points per game from last year’s team, the Tigers have managed to reload quickly with a pair of transfers. Cincinnati transfer Tari Eason has become LSU’s leading scorer with 15.8 points per game to go along with 7.4 rebounds per game.
Meanwhile, Missouri transfer Xavier Pinson has handled the point guard duties, averaging 4.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game while also chipping in with 11 points per game.
Senior Darius Days has also taken a step forward, giving the Tigers 14.7 points and a team-high eight rebounds per game. However, three-point shooting has been an issue for the Tigers, with nobody presenting a serious threat outside of Days.
Instead, the Tigers have more success going inside with Eason and 6’11’’ freshman center Efton Reid, who’s the team’s four-leading scorer at 9.2 points per game but struggled with foul trouble in the loss to Auburn.
In Perfect Balance
While the Wildcats are not lacking star power, Calipari has found a good balance with this year’s team, which features five players who average at least 10 points per game. Kentucky has been led by West Virginia transfer Oscar Tshiebwe, who owns the paint, averaging 15.8 points and 15.2 rebounds per game. Keion Brooks also brings a steady presence to the frontcourt with 11.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
In the backcourt, freshman TyTy Washington is Kentucky’s best one-and-done candidate, averaging 14 points per game while shooting 41% from three-point range. But Davidson transfer Kellan Grady has been equally important, shooting 50% from beyond the arc and giving the Cats 11.8 points per game.
Finally, Georgia transfer Sahvir Wheeler is the straw that stirs the drink, dishing out 7.8 assists per game while scoring 10.3 points per game, banishing last year’s top scorer Davion Mintz and blue-chip recruit Daimion Collins to the bench.
LSU’s struggles against a strong Auburn team don’t bode well for the Tiger’s chances against a Kentucky team that’s been dominant lately. The Wildcats have a dominant interior player in Tshiebwe and three different but equally effective guards.
Bet on Kentucky to win this game as road underdogs.
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