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5 things to know about the Auburn Tigers

5 things to know about the Auburn Tigers

1. The two-headed monster in the backcourt for Auburn are returning starters Bryce Brown and Jared Harper. Starting at the point, Harper is just 5’11”, but is one of the most difficult players to defend in the conference. Ashton Hagans will have his hands full and his reputation of an elite perimeter defender on the line, as Harper is averaging 15.1 points per game, which is 8th in the SEC. On top of that, the junior is leading the SEC in assists at 6.7, grabbing 3.1 rebounds, and swiping 1.1 steals per game, while hitting almost 84% of his free throws. Harper’s 45 made threes on the season are good for 4th in the SEC. Starting at the two guard is senior Bryce Brown, who’s putting up 16.2 points per game, good for 6th in SEC, 2.3 assists, 2.3 rebounds, and 1.1 steals per game, hitting 79% of his free throws. Brown has made 56 three point attempts this year which is the second most made threes in the conference. The two starting guards put up 18 points a piece in Auburn’s win over Kentucky last season.

2. If you didn’t notice from the shooting numbers from the first two players mentioned above, shooting the three ball is what Auburn centers their offense around. Modeling a bit after the current NBA game, the Tigers want to take and make as many three point shots as possible, emphasis on taking as many as possible. At 84.5 points per game, Bruce Pearl’s squad is second in the Southeastern Conference in scoring and 18th in the country. On top of that, the Tigers are attempting the 4th most threes per game in the entire country at 31 attempts, hitting 35.9% of them as a team. For comparison, Kentucky is 344th in the country in threes attempted, hitting 34.7% of them as a team. However, Auburn does tend to rely on the three-ball a bit too much at times, getting careless in their shot selection. In fact, Kentucky actually has a better adjusted field goal percentage, true shooting percentage, and effective shooting percentage than Auburn does at this point in the season. There are essentially seven players that are threats from downtown for the Tigers, the most dangerous of which are Brown (37.8%) and Harper (40.2%) based on volume of shots and still keeping solid percentages. Outside of those two guards, 6’6″ Malik Dunbar hits 37.5% of his threes, while 6’4″ Samir Doughty hits 44.4% and 6’8″ Chuma Okeke hits 32%. Anfernee McLemore is 6’7″ and has made 10 of his 36 attempts on the year, and lastly, 6’0″ guard J’Von McCormick has hit 4 of the 8 he’s taken this season. Kentucky’s three-point defense has been downright poor almost all season, and it will be especially pertinent today to defend the perimeter well without biting on every pump fake Auburn throws their way.

3. The Tigers typically play a four around one style, in that they’ll put four perimeter players on the floor around one true big man. The time they spend not playing four around one, they’re playing five perimeter threats and no true bigs. I spoke on the plethora of shooters they have in my previous point for the four perimeter players, but it is time to focus on the one in the middle. Junior starting center Austin Wiley stands at 6’11” and 260 pounds, and he is a load to handle in the paint. Wiley was a 5-star prospect coming out of high school, but his development slowed steadily having to sit out all of last year due to eligibility issues surrounding the FBI scandal. The Hoover, Alabama native is averaging 10.8 points, a team-leading 6.1 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game. His stats would probably be improved, but Wiley tends to get into early foul trouble, picking up three or more fouls in each of the last five games, and 10 times in the 15 games he’s played this year.

4. Head Coach Bruce Pearl is now in his 5th season coaching the Auburn Tigers. Fresh off his first NCAA tournament appearance at Auburn last season and the first one for the Tigers since 2003, Pearl has completely revamped the program in a short time period. As last year’s SEC Champion for the regular season for the first time since 1999, the Tigers are in a good place to contend to do so a second time. Auburn currently sits at a 13-3 record, including 2-1 in their first three conference games. Pearl had his squad take care of business in the non-conference portion of their schedule, only dropping two games, including a close loss to Duke in the Maui Invitational and a seven-point loss at now 17th ranked NC State. They knocked off a few potential tournament teams during non-conference play, including Arizona, Washington, Xavier, and Dayton. They also knocked off Murray State and projected top 5 pick Ja Morant in late December just before SEC play began.

5. Since John Calipari took over for Kentucky in the 2009-10 season, the Wildcats are 9-2 against the Tigers. However, Auburn has won two of last three meetings between the two teams, and in fact, both losses were at Auburn Arena. A surprising stat for today’s game is that it is only the fourth road game against a top 15 SEC opponent since Coach Cal started at Kentucky. The Cats haven’t fared well in the first three of these games, losing by double-digits every time. The first was a 17-point loss at Florida in 2013, the second was a 19-point loss at Florida in 2014, and the third was a 10-point loss at Auburn last season. Let’s hope it is a three-and-out for those games, and Kentucky can right the ship this afternoon. Even if the Cats don’t manage to come out with a victory today, I think that taking it down to the wire would be way better for the psyche of this team than a blowout.


Go Cats. Beat Tigers.

@BrettBibbinsKSR


(Photo via NBC Sports Bay Area)

BBNBA: Boogie Returns and SGA Ties Career-High

(Photo via NBC Sports Bay Area)

Good afternoon, folks. DeMarcus Cousins returned to the court on Friday night for the first time in nearly a year. It was everything we could have imagined and more. Let’s talk NBA.

Reminder to vote to send the BBNBA to the 2019 All-Star game and also NBA League Pass is still free through Jan. 20.

RECAP

[32-14] Warriors – 112 @ [24-21] Clippers – 94

  • It finally happened, DeMarcus Cousins is back in an NBA uniform and dominating like he never left. In his first game back since tearing his Achilles last January, Boogie scored 14 points on 5-11 shooting (3-4 from three) in addition to six rebounds and three assists. Cousins only played 15 minutes before fouling out, which actually resulted in a vivacious – yet slightly sarcastic – helping of cheers from the mostly Warriors crowd in Staples Center. In fact, the Golden State fans were fawning over Cousins any chance they got. They were dying to root for him, can you blame them though?

  • Cousins scored the Warriors first – and his first as a member of the reigning champs – points on a beautiful slam dunk via a pocket pass from Kevin Durant out of the pick-and-roll and it was beautiful.

  • ”I felt like a kid on Christmas,” Cousins said. ”This was probably one of the best days of my life being back on the floor playing the game that I love.”
  • Cousins was rightfully the main attraction, but Shai Gilgeous-Alexander quietly tied his career-high with 24 points for the Clippers. SGA shot 7-17 from the field and registered three rebounds, five assists, and three steals. He also played a career-high 42 minutes.

Other notes

  • Karl-Anthony Towns played only 21 total minutes before fouling out against the San Antonio Spurs. He still managed 23 points and six rebounds, but after picking up his fourth foul early into the second half, the Spurs were able to control the game and ultimately come out with the win.
  • For the New Orleans Pelicans, Anthony Davis led both his team and the BBNBA in scoring with 27 points, but his squad was whooped by the Portland Trail Blazers 128-112. Julius Randle contributed 19 points and nine rebounds while Darius Miller added five points.
  • Isaiah Briscoe clocked 20 minutes for his second consecutive game, scoring six points on 3-6 shooting in addition to four rebounds and three assists. This is the sixth straight game in which Briscoe has topped at least 15 minutes of playing time. He had done so only twice before this recent stretch. The Orlando Magic are making a legitimate NBA player out of Briscoe.
  • Check out the full stat sheet below.

STATISTICS

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Anthony Davis (NOP)112-128 L @ POR279-17 (0-0)72011-2535
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (LAC)94-112 L vs. GSW247-17 (0-3)35302-1042
Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)113-116 L vs. SAS238-17 (1-6)61003-1021
Julius Randle (NOP)112-128 L @ POR198-16 (1-3)94124-1636
DeMarcus Cousins (GSW)112-94 W @ LAC145-11 (3-4)63111+2115
Bam Adebayo (MIA)93-98 L @ DET94-4 (0-0)61012-426
Isaiah Briscoe (ORL)115-117 L vs. BKN63-6 (0-2)43001+320
Darius Miller (NOP)112-128 L @ POR51-5 (0-2)21010+325

TONIGHT IN THE NBA

3:30 (ABC): Thunder (Diallo, Noel, Patterson) @ Sixers

5:00: Suns (Booker) @ Hornets (Kidd-Gilchrist, Monk)

7:00: Kings (Cauley-Stein, Fox, Labissiere) @ Pistons

7:00: Mavericks @ Pacers

7:00: Bucks (Bledsoe) @ Magic (Briscoe)

7:30: Celtics @ Hawks (Poythress-out)

7:30: Grizzlies @ Raptors

8:00: Heat (Adebayo) @ Bulls

8:30 (ABC): Lakers (Rondo-out) @ Rockets (Knight)

10:00: Cavaliers @ Nuggets (Lyles, Murray, Vanderbilt)


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


ESPN College GameDay is returning to Rupp Arena

ESPN College GameDay is headed back to Rupp Arena for the third straight year.

This morning, the GameDay crew announced they would be headed to Lexington to see Kentucky take on Kansas on January 26.

Reece Davis, Jay Bilas, Jay Williams and Seth Greenberg will be in town to preview the two winningest teams in college basketball history, with Bulas, Dan Shulman and Maria Taylor calling the game.

As always, admission will be free and fans are encouraged to attend. Seats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, with the gates opening at 9:00 a.m. and the live show starting at 11:00 a.m.

Signs will also be permitted at the show, though they are subject to screening for the telecast.

Students interested in attending ESPN College GameDay and/or the Kentucky-Kansas game are allowed to start lining up at the student gate no earlier than 5:00 a.m. Students attending both GameDay and the game itself will receive a numbered wristband and will be required to return to the student gate by 3:00 p.m., where they will be places in numbered order to get in when the gates open at 4:30 p.m.

We’ll see you there, BBN.


GAMEDAY presented by More Than a Bakery: Kentucky heads to Auburn

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What should we know about Auburn?

At 13-3 on the season, 2-1 in conference play, and 9-0 at home, the Auburn Tigers are no joke.

They’ve beaten Xavier, Arizona, Georgia, and Texas A&M, while their losses have come on a neutral floor against Duke (78-72), at NC State (78-71), and at Ole Miss (82-67).

We’ve hammered it home over the last several days, but the two biggest takeaways heading into Kentucky’s matchup at Auburn involves three-point shooting and slow starts.

For Auburn, the Tigers are tied for fifth in the nation and first in the SEC with 10.9 made three-pointers per game. They also average 30 attempts from deep per game, good for fourth in the country.

In terms of total offensive production, Auburn averages a whopping 84.5 points per game, No. 2 in the SEC. The Tigers line to put their foot on the gas pedal from the tip and keep it there through the final buzzer.

As for Kentucky, the Wildcats rank No. 286 overall out of 351 total teams at 36.3 percent in terms of defending the three. In SEC play, the Cats have allowed a ridiculous 38.5 percent from beyond the arc.

If they continue with yet another slow start and fail to defend the three-point line against Auburn, there is a solid chance they’ll go home with a loss. Plain and simple.

Vegas

Despite Kentucky’s impressive second-half turnaround against Georgia, the fine folks out in Las Vegas still don’t have much faith in the Cats to get the job done on the road this afternoon.

The line opened at -4 in favor of Auburn, and it has since spread to -4.5 on a few major betting outlets. ESPN currently lists the over/under at 146.

As always, we encourage folks to bet wager responsibly here at KSR.

Prepare on the KSR Pregame Show

Before the Kentucky takes the court, listen to the KSR crew preview the matchup between the Cats and Auburn.  All of the action begins on 630 WLAP or online at 1:30 pm.

How to Watch and Listen

Bob Wischusen and Dick Vitale will be on the call for ESPN beginning at 4:00 p.m.  If you’re stuck on the road and can’t watch, there are multiple ways to listen to The Voice of the Wildcats.

  • AM: 840 WHAS, 630 WLAP
  • FM: 98.1 WBUL
  • Satellite: XM-190 and Sirius-119
  • Online: iHeart Radio

Another Wildcat takes on the school he was once committed to

For the second consecutive game, a Kentucky Wildcat will have to handle the pressure of taking on the school he was once committed to in high school.

Kentucky forward EJ Montgomery, a Marietta, GA native, was committed to Auburn from September of 2016 through September of 2017, but decided to back off of his pledge when then-Auburn associate head coach Chuck Person was arrested following the controversial FBI investigation into college basketball.

In April of 2018, Montgomery made the decision to attend Kentucky, and in his first meeting with his former school of choice, the five-star big man will almost certainly find himself showered with boos when he takes the floor.

Wildcat point guard Ashton Hagans had to take on his hometown Georgia Bulldogs on the road on Tuesday, but thrived under the spotlight. Hagans finished the day with a career-high 23 points, five rebounds, four assists, and four steals.

How will Montgomery handle the pressure?

The Cats are ready

This morning, the Kentucky men’s basketball Twitter account released a video from practice yesterday, giving fans an inside look at how the Wildcats are preparing for their matchup with Auburn.

And by the looks of things, we’ll be hearing, “Go, go, go, GO!” from John Calipari quite a bit this afternoon.

Check it out:

It’s only going to get tougher from here

Think the path gets any easier following Kentucky’s much-awaited top-15 matchup with Auburn this afternoon? Think again.

After taking on No. 14 Auburn today, Kentucky will host No. 24 Mississippi State and No. 7 Kansas at Rupp Arena over the next two games, the first time since the 2015 NCAA Tournament the Wildcats have had to take on three consecutive ranked opponents.

According to UK Athletics, it will also be the first time it’s happened in the regular season since the end of the 2005-06 season under Tubby Smith.

Brutal.

John Calipari’s go-to catchphrase this season has been, “We win or we learn,” but hopefully the Cats find a way to do both over the next three games.


Tyrese Maxey is on the Recruiting Trail

The No. 8 overall prospect in ESPN’s 2019 recruiting rankings and current Kentucky Wildcat commit, Tyrese Maxey, has been leading the recruiting trail for his new team despite missing out on James Wiseman in November.

Maxey, the second-highest rated shooting guard in his class, was pushing hard to land a commitment from Wiseman but didn’t get discouraged when the nation’s top recruit chose the Memphis Tigers instead.

“It’s like that sometimes,” said Maxey, who plays for South Garland High School out of Texas. “At the end of the day he [Wiseman] had to do what was right for him and I respect that. He’s still my man.”

Maxey headlines a Kentucky recruiting class currently ranked fifth overall by ESPN, joined by Khalil Whitney (No. 10) and Kentucky native Dontaie Allen (No. 91). But Maxey, following in his future head coaches footsteps, isn’t satisfied just yet.

According to an interview with USA Today, Maxey is still recruiting Keion Brooks (No. 34) and Isaiah Stewart (No. 5) – both teammates out of La Lumiere School in Indiana – along Jaden McDaniels (No. 6) out of Federal Way in Washington and Matthew Hurt (No. 7) out of John Marshall High School in Minnesota.

“I need those guys with me,” Maxey said. “I gave it my best shot with James and that’s all I can do. I pretty much knew that he was gonna go there, but I had to go hard at him anyway. Now I’m gonna focus on these guys and try and build a great team for the BBN fans next season.”

Stewart is expected to announce his decision on ESPN on Sunday with most projections pointing towards him selecting Washington. Brooks’ announcement could be made public sometime soon, as well.

As for McDaniels and Hurt, we are still hoping Maxey’s pitches can be enough to convince one (or both) of them to wear the blue and white next season in Lexington.

Even if his efforts prove to be all for nothing, Maxey buying into Kentucky 100 percent should be the most important takeaway from all of this. He’s clearly extremely committed to Kentucky and wants to build something special for what will likely be his only season as a Wildcat. If he can bring along a couple of five-star recruits with him, I’m all for it.


Enes Kanter Discusses Travel Issues in Interview With BBC

(Photo via Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Kentucky and current New York Knicks center Enes Kanter did not travel with his teammates as they embarked to London in the NBA’s first game of the season in England.

The Knicks lost, 101-100, to the Washington Wizards on a game-winning shot that was ruled a goaltend, but it was Kanter’s reasoning for remaining back home in the United States that rightfully stole the headlines.

In a sit-down interview with BBC, Kanter explains his situation with the Turkish government, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and why he stayed in America out of fear rather than because of travel issues.

The full article can be found here, but Kanter posted the interview in two parts to his Twitter account.

Here are some of the more chilling quotes from Kanter from the interview.

“If I step outside of America I’m not feeling safe. I don’t feel safe.”

“If I step in Turkey, you probably won’t hear a word from me ever again…. I don’t know what would they [Erdogan supporters] do, but I know it will be very ugly”

Those are some frightening quotes. Kanter won’t be able to obtain American citizenship until 2021 and said he doesn’t plan on leaving the country until he is a full United States citizen. If the NBA continues to expand their reach outside of the United States and into countries across Europe, this could be a reoccurring problem for the Switzerland native.


(Photo via Getty Images)

What to Expect From DeMarcus Cousins’ Debut With Golden State

(Photo via Getty Images)

Former Kentucky and current Golden State Warriors center DeMarcus Cousin is set to make his team debut tonight against the Los Angeles Clippers at 10:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Cousins has not played in an NBA game since tearing his Achilles tendon late last January and after nearly a full year of recovery and controversy, Boogie is ready to take the big stage yet again.

So what should we expect from Boogie’s first game back? Will he play more than 15 minutes? What lineups will head coach Steve Kerr slot him into? Is he going to bust out for a 40-point triple-double?

The correct answer is I have absolutely zero ideas, but let’s speculate anyway because I’m so so excited to watch Cousins play basketball again that I might cry.

So let’s start with the most glaring question. How will Cousins – a six-time All-Star who is often the man with the ball in hands – handle playing second, third, fourth, or even fifth fiddle to one of the most talented collections of players in NBA history?

It’s no secret that Cousins is a bit of a hot-head. I think even he would openly admit that at this point. From what I can tell from him and on social media, he’s bonded with fellow Warriors teammate and another notorious trouble-maker, Draymond Green. While that relationship off the court might be a match made in heaven, I’m skeptical that they can work together on the court. They counter each other’s strengths and weaknesses well, however. Draymond is the playmaking, defensive-minded – yet undersized – power forward while Cousins can dominate on offense from every area of the court. In strictly basketball terms, they should theoretically mesh well on the court, but in terms of their personalities and passion, we might see some colorfully worded arguments during games.

But it’s not like the Warriors aren’t used to that at this point. Kevin Durant and Green had some public beef the other month and that seems like news from seasons ago. Golden State’s front office didn’t sign Boogie to a one-year, $5.3 million steal of a contract hoping that he would come in and balance out the chemistry. They signed him because they had the power to do so and didn’t have to worry about working out the specifics of how they’ll integrate him until now. So any potential beef between Cousins and his new teammates is something that was surely expected. Now it’s just a matter of when (or if) it happens and how every side will deal with it.

Aside from Green – and sometimes the insecure Durant – the Warriors don’t really have any other players that might clash with Cousins. Now, in terms of how he’ll work playing alongside Curry, Durant, and Klay Thompson, that’s where things get a bit foggier. During his time in New Orleans, Cousins had Anthony Davis by his side and those two acted as twin towers on wheels, forcing opponents to stretch open the floor entirely and pick their poison of who they prefer to double-team. In Golden State, that’s going to be even more exaggerated. You can’t double Cousins with Curry and Thompson roaming the perimeter, that’s asking for death. Cousins is an incredibly competent playmaker for his size. Even if Cousins doesn’t come back at 100 percent, he should still be a viable force in the paint and whenever he decides to step out for a three. His reputation alone will attract defenders and open up action for one of the four other All-Stars.

The Warriors have never had a dominant center since they began their reign of terror on the NBA a few seasons ago. How they incorporate one of the most unique big men to ever play the game should be interesting. They can’t hold Cousins to the same type of game that they have done with some of their other centers such as JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia, Jordan Bell, or Kevon Looney. Cousins needs the ball to be effective and the reality of the situation is he won’t be getting it nearly as much as he’s been accustomed too, even if the Warriors go out of their way to feed him the ball. I expect the Warriors to run a few plays for him early against the Clippers to test himself against L.A.’s slow-footed big men. But once the game gets going and into a flow, it’s going to be hard to argue for force-feeding the ball to Cousins if Curry has hit two straight threes on back-to-back possessions.

So therein lies what will most likely be the biggest issue between the short marriage of Cousins and Golden State. Can they keep him happy long enough? Can they get him to buy in long enough to finish out the season without being a featured proponent? Remember, Cousins is set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He’s coming off a torn Achilles, an injury that has derailed the careers of several big men before Cousins. He wants to get paid. He would have received a max contract had he not torn gone down the injury. Now his future is completely unclear and his play for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs is going to be a giant indicator of how much money he might earn. The Warriors won’t be able to resign Cousins next season (that is, if they intend to keep their core together, which I’m sure they do) and he’s essentially auditioning for 29 other franchises on a team where he’s maybe the third best player when fully healthy.

So is he going to be a major part of the rotation early? Steve Kerr recently told reporters that Cousins will start, but it is unclear exactly how long he’ll play. “I’ll start him [Cousins]. After that, everything’s on the table,” Kerr said. “We have to figure out what the rotations will look like, how many minutes he can play. We’ll have to play around with the minutes, the combinations, the sets.”

That reads to me as Kerr struggling his shoulders. I don’t think even he has any idea of how this experiment is going to work. I don’t think anyone in the known universe can predict how this all might end. There hasn’t been a situation like this in recent NBA memory. But I’ll tell you one thing, I haven’t been this excited to watch the Warriors play since they blew a 3-1 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals with the first-ever unanimous MVP to LeBron James and my Cleveland Cavaliers. *now I’m shrugging my shoulders*

Welcome back, Boogie. We’ve missed you so, so much.


Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan