Auburn vs. Kentucky preview: Players to watch, X-factor, etc.

In Features by Jordan Harper

A couple weeks ago, Kentucky vs. Auburn was expected to be the game of the year in the SEC.

Fast forward to now, and Kentucky is on a three-game losing streak and Auburn recently lost at home to Texas A&M.

Nonetheless, this is still expected to be an excellent game.

Auburn is atop the SEC with a 10-2 conference record and recently won a road game at Georgia, even with leading scorer Bryce Brown sidelined due to injury. Brown is expected to make his return against Kentucky, but it was impressive what the Tigers did without him.

Kentucky finds itself in unfamiliar territory in February, tied for fifth in the conference with a 6-6 record. The Wildcats have struggled scoring the basketball recently after their outburst at West Virginia, and just gave up 59 points in the second half to Texas A&M.

Quade Green is still easing back, Kevin Knox has been inconsistent, and PJ Washington hasn’t been himself as of late.

Players to Watch

Jared Harper (Auburn)

Harper is the motor of this team. He defines what this team is about: undersized, but extremely tough on both sides of the court.

He isn’t afraid to go up amongst the trees and make a tough layup and is shifty enough to shake a defender for an open three.

Another aspect of Harper’s game that is indicative of this team is that he is not scared of the moment. He will take the big shot and isn’t afraid to have the ball in his hand when it matters most.

Look for him to have another good game on Wednesday.

Nick Richards (Kentucky)

For those who follow Kentucky basketball, you know Richards is not a big part of the team’s offensive game plan.

And for the Wildcats to win at Auburn, he’ll need to play well.

Auburn is smaller in the frontcourt and showed against Texas A&M that length in the post can sometimes cause problems.

Richards is 6’11 and will the tallest player on the floor for both sides. He has to dominate the boards and be able to establish his presence inside if Kentucky wants to win.

X Factor: Auburn’s perimeter offense v Kentucky’s perimeter defense

Auburn is one of the top 3-point shooting teams in the country, while Kentucky struggles at times defending the outside shot.

The Wildcats have the length to on the perimeter to give Auburn fits, so they need to stay within reach to be able to give a solid contest on the shot.

It wouldn’t surprising to see Kentucky hold Auburn under 10 made 3-pointers in forcing the Tigers to score over the length inside.

Prediction

This is a very tough game to predict. It has the makings of an up-and-down game with a lot of offensive action involved.

I do not remember a time when I last saw Kentucky lose three in a row, much less four straight.

That’s why I’m gonna go with the law of averages here and say Kentucky gets a much-needed win and pulls off the upset at Auburn.

Prediction: Kentucky 83, Auburn 80

Jordan Harper is a graduate of the University of North Alabama. He has served as a basketball correspondent for Bama Insider for three years and is one of the few Alabamians that loves basketball more than football. He’s addicted to SEC basketball and refuses to seek therapy. He covers general SEC and recruiting for Southeast Hoops.