As you know, the Cats will tip-off with Auburn tonight at 9:00 p.m. ET on ESPNU. Kentucky is coming off of a 75-65 home win over Tennessee, while Auburn is coming off of a 88-80 double overtime loss to Arkansas. This young Kentucky squad will head into Auburn Arena as an eight point favorite and they need to (and should) take care of business. With that being said, here are five things to look for in tonight’s game…
- The Absence of Willie Cauley-Stein: As we learned yesterday, Cauley-Stein will miss an “undisclosed amount of time” due to a lingering knee issue that has bothered him since high school. Obviously, the Cats will need to find a way to fill that void. Scoring and rebounding aside, Willie is a seven footer who, at times, brings an energy level that cannot be taken for granted on this team. With Willie out, the choice for “player who needs to step their game up most” is obvious; which brings me to my next point…
- Alex Poythress: We ask this question before every game: Will Alex finally roar? Now, we never want to see any of our players hurt, but looking on the bright side, what better scenario for Poythress to come out and show the college basketball world that he has arrived? With Cauley-Stein out, the depth of our front court certainly takes a hit. Although frustrating at times, I have been extremely patient thus far with Alex simply because I see the beast in him and I trust that, in time, Coach Cal can and will bring it out. The stars are aligned, Alex. This is your time.
- Perimeter Defense/Foul Trouble: Auburn will enter the game with two veteran players averaging double-digits; both guards. As we are all too familiar with (Elston Turner), perimeter players who can catch fire and score in a variety of ways could cause some problems for the Cats. One of the missing pieces to this team is a guy (a la MKG or Liggins) who can completely shut down the opposing teams best perimeter player. With that being said, it is crucial that Kentucky play solid team defense and stay out of foul trouble. Kentucky could find themselves at a major disadvantage if someone like Nerlens were to find themselves in foul trouble this evening.
- Hood/Polson Combination: Like Alex Poythress, Jon Hood and Jarrod Polson may be called upon to help fill the void in Cauley-Stein’s absence. Keep an eye on Hood and Polson’s minutes and in which ways they contribute. Polson will simply need to spot minutes for Ryan Harrow, take care of the ball, and play good defense. Meanwhile, I would like to see Jon Hood knock down a few shots, as well as, rebound and play defense. An increase in playing time should serve as yet another opportunity for Hood to prove to his coaches that he can provide solid minutes off the bench in the future.
- Hostile Road Environment: I am of the belief that most players should thrive in hostile road environments. The adrenaline will be rushing and the fans will be screaming. Players should want to play in these types of games. Look, I know the Cats are young, but lets not make any excuses. “We are every team’s Superbowl.” Always have been, always will be. Take care of business tonight, men.