LSU vs. Kentucky Prediction: Will the Wildcats Prove They Are Kings of the SEC?

College basketball expert Mike Spector gives his prediction for the highly anticipated Tuesday night matchup between the Kentucky Wildcats and LSU Tigers.
Mike Spector |
Tue, January 4, 11:45 AM EST | 5 min read
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LSU vs. Kentucky Prediction: Will the Wildcats Prove They Are Kings of the SEC?

The SEC has been one of the most competitive conferences in the country to this point, with seven teams posting double-digit wins so far and five teams ranked in the top 25. Each week, a new championship contender seems to emerge from this conference, which is a testament to how deep the league is. We will continue to find out more about two of the best teams in the conference, as the Kentucky Wildcats and LSU Tigers meet in an early heavyweight battle. Who has the edge in each team’s second game in league play?

LSU vs. Kentucky State Start Time, Where to Watch, and Odds

Date: Tuesday, January 4

Game Time: 7:00 pm ET

Where to Watch: ESPN

Click Here for LSU vs Kentucky Odds

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LSU vs. Kentucky Prediction

Though Kentucky enters this game on a modest four-game winning streak since a disappointing loss at Notre Dame, the Wildcats have looked like one of the most dominant teams in the country over the last two weeks. Kentucky has averaged 92 PPG during their four-game streak after head coach John Calipari slightly tweaked the offense. 

Calipari is employing much more of the dribble-drive mentality that made him so successful at Memphis, and his team has responded with a barrage of offense. Kentucky has multiple shooters to space the floor, a relentless attacker at the point guard position in Sahvir Wheeler, and a dominant big man in Oscar Tshiebwe, an early frontrunner for SEC Player of the Year. Kentucky’s pieces have blended so well together of late, and they lead the country in adjusted efficiency margin over the last three weeks since their loss to the Fighting Irish.

LSU is coming off their first loss of the season, a 70-55 defeat at Auburn last Wednesday. We will learn a lot about LSU over the next three weeks, as their schedule is murderous (Tennessee, at Florida, Arkansas, at Alabama, at Tennessee). Ten of LSU’s first 12 wins have come by double digits, but the young Tigers could not overcome the electric atmosphere at Auburn, as they quickly realized “The Jungle” is one of the most challenging places in the league to play at. 

Despite the loss, LSU’s defensive metrics remain off the charts. According to KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, the Tigers are the best team, and they rank in the top 13 in the country in both 2-point and 3-point percentage defense. LSU is also a disruptive defensive team that creates plenty of turnovers, as their 26.9% turnover rate is the fifth-best in the country. 

When analyzing this game, the biggest question is will Kentucky’s newfound offense win out, or is LSU capable of playing the same elite defense they have played all season long? While LSU’s sample size of playing solid defense is larger, Kentucky has played against better competition, and the Wildcats are ready to win their first game on the road this season.

One area that the Wildcats can take advantage of is on the offensive glass. Kentucky is the best offensive rebounding team in the country (rebounding 43.4% of their misses), while LSU ranks outside the top 75 in offensive rebounding percentage allowed. In addition, LSU had a hard time keeping Auburn out of the paint, which will be an issue against Kentucky if they cannot contain Wheeler’s dribble penetration.

Auburn scored 70 points on LSU despite shooting 7-for-23 from 3-point range. On the other hand, Kentucky has shot 32-for-78 (41%) from 3-point range over the last four games, which has built the confidence of players like Kellan Grady and TyTy Washington. Thus, we like for Kentucky to pose the most issues that this LSU defense has seen all season and continue the narrative that they should be thought of as the best team in the SEC.

LSU vs. Kentucky Pick

Kentucky +2 (-110)

Mike Spector
@MikeSpector01

Mike Spector brings unmatched knowledge and insight into the game of football, and more importantly the process of betting on NFL football. Mike is the #2 ranked expert in FantasyPros' NFL betting contest

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