SEC conference play continues tonight, with LSU heading to Kentucky to take on the Wildcats in what will be both teams' second conference game. We’ll preview the game before reviewing who I’ll be backing in this one.
The 9-4 Kentucky Wildcats enter this week no longer ranked in the Top 25, and head coach John Calipari has been receiving a large amount of criticism for the performance of his team as of late. The Wildcats lost their first conference game to Missouri by 14 points and have just two wins against power five opponents, one of which was over a 2-12 Louisville team.
Kentucky is 14th in the country in adjusted efficiency margin on KenPom, but at times its looked like they haven’t clicked yet on either side of the floor. Cason Wallace and Oscar Tshiebwe have been the most consistent players on the offensive end, as Tshiebwe has helped the team bring in an average of 12.7 offensive rebounds per game.
Wallace has been great from three-point range, shooting 47.5% from three this season, which has brought the Wildcats team three-point shooting percentage to 39%. Their opponent tonight has been a solid defensive team all season, putting up a defensive efficiency rating of 95.3 on KenPom, and holding opponents to a 27.6% three-point percentage.
The Tigers come into tonight fresh off their first conference in which they held a strong Arkansas team to just 57 points. Their overall ability to force turnovers has been a significant factor in their 12-1 start, as the Tigers are forcing an average of 14.6 turnovers per game.
On the offensive end, the Tigers have been led by KJ Williams, who enters tonight averaging 18.5 points per game this season while shooting 49% from three. Aside from Williams, no other starter has shot the ball effectively, including second-leading scorer Adam “Ace” Miller, who is averaging 11.8 points but shooting only 30.5% from deep.
LSU can currently be found as +10.5 point underdogs, and I’ll be backing them as my best bet for the game. The Wildcats have gone 2-4 against Power Five opponents this season, and I think they are being overvalued based on the current line. A lot of the Wildcats' strong numbers in certain categories come from them playing a non-conference strength of schedule rated 241st in the country.
In three of Kentucky’s four losses to P5 opponents, they allowed 86 or more points to be scored, and in every game they have been favored against a P5 opponent this season against this, they have yet to cover the spread.
The Tigers' ability to limit their opponent’s three-point shooting is a significant factor for them tonight. It could force other Kentucky players aside from Cason Wallace to step up on the offensive end. In games in which Kentucky’s opponents have forced them to find scoring outside of Wallace and Tshiebwe, they have struggled to produce on offense.
If LSU can keep the game close and make Kentucky start to force on offense, they will likely be able to win the turnover battle. The Wildcats are 114th in the country in turnovers per game, so if the Tigers can force their usual amount, then they should stay in this game.
LSU Tigers (+10.5)