[Moderated by Matt Jones]
Granted, Auburn’s orange is less offensive than Tennessee’s, but I have met exactly one person in my life who looks good in orange period and it isn’t an Auburn or Tennessee fan. With their “Orange Out” shirts at hand, the Tigers enter today’s game with a deceiving record; at 8-8 and 2-1 in the SEC, the Cats might be tempted to overlook them or to pay too much attention to their weird losses (including a stretch of four straight against Dayton, Boston College, Rhode Island, and DePaul). However, Auburn was two overtimes away against Arkansas from being undefeated in the SEC thus far, and they only lost to #12 Illinois by two points. Auburn seems to be suffering from multiple personalities, and UK has to play as if they’re facing the good twin.
Players to Watch
Rob Chubb. The bruising senior center is going to be key in this game for his matchup with Nerlens Noel. Without Willie Cauley-Stein for foul insurance, Nerlens will have to body up on Chubb (ugh) while avoiding foul trouble. Chubb averages 9.9 ppg and 7.8 rpg; he’s not the biggest stat sheet stuffer, but with WCS out, he could have a career day if Nerlens lets him. Chubb also provides priceless post-game commentary (“we came out flaccid,” anyone?) and when I Googled him just now it auto-finished my search to “rob chubb arrested,” so there’s that.
Frankie Sullivan. The senior guard has the highest scoring average on the team with 17.8 ppg and carried his team on his back against Arkansas by scoring five three-pointers (and 23 out of his 26 total points) during the second half alone. Typically, the three-point shot is not his go-to (he only averages 31% behind the arc), but with the Cats’ perimeter defense a glaring weakness on this team, Frankie might feel emboldened to take a few more shots than usual.
The Tigers’ second-leading scorer, guard Chris Denson, hasn’t played since the Illinois game on December 29 due to a stress fracture. Josh Wallace has been playing in his place but hasn’t been as much of an offensive threat as Denson.
Bottom line? Cal expects the Tigers to be bruisin’, despite being a smaller team, and to play some zone. In Willie’s absence, Alex Poythress will have yet another chance to step up for a statement-making game. Julius Mays and Kyle Wiltjer will need to hold on to their shooting momentum from the Tennessee game in order to beat the zone. With this game a sold-out away game, I’m anything but comfortable, but I’ll look at it as a chance for the Cats to prove themselves. Go Cats.
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