Kentucky (11-2, 1-0) at LSU (8-5, 1-0)
When: Tuesday, January 5th 2016
Where: Pete Maravich Center, Baton Rouge, LA
Time: 9:00 ET | TV: ESPN
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At least three players with the potential to be NBA Lottery picks this summer will be on display tonight as the Kentucky Wildcats visit the LSU Tigers in an SEC tilt. LSU’s all-world freshman Ben Simmons is sure to be the top overall pick with the way he’s playing this season. He’s averaging 20.5 points, 13.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.4 blocks per game. Not bad for a freshman. He leads the team in every one of those categories including field-goal percentage (57.4%). Simmons poured in 36 points on 10-of-15 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds in LSU’s opening conference win over Vanderbilt on Saturday. The Commodores kept it close for a half, but Simmons and the Tigers pulled away for a 90-82 victory. Keith Hornsby added 23 points including four 3-pointers and is now hitting 45.2% of his threes on the season. The Tigers have lost three in a row to Kentucky, but two of those losses came by a combined three points. LSU has covered the spread in this series five of the last six meetings. LSU’s defense will need to improve as they enter SEC play. They are ranked 273rd in points allowed (76.6) and 201st in FG% (43.4). The Tigers are 7-1 at home this year with the lone loss coming against Wake Forest on December 29th 77-71.
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The Kentucky Wildcats bring their one-and-done McDonald’s All-Americans to Baton Rouge looking for their third win in a row after an ugly loss to Ohio State on December 19th. Skal Labissiere, once considered a threat to be the top pick in the 2016 draft, is averaging just 9.2 points and 3.5 rebounds and has played 14 minutes or less in three of the last four games. Fellow freshman Jamal Murray leads the Wildcats in scoring (16.8) and has hit 14 of his last 29 three-point attempts. He had a monster 33 point game in the loss to Ohio State. The Wildcats followed the Ohio State loss with a 75-73 victory over rival Louisville the day after Christmas. Sophomore Tyler Ulis, who is averaging 13.4 points a game and 5.9 assists, had 21 points in that game and followed it up with a 20-point effort and six steals in an 83-61 win over Ole Miss as Kentucky opened up SEC play. The Wildcats lead the all-time series 86-25. This will be Kentucky’s second true road game of the year – the other was a 87-77 loss at UCLA.
Kentucky might have the athletes, but the chemistry with this group is not quite there yet. I’m sure it will be when March rolls around, but tonight, I’m taking Simmons and the Tigers to at least cover.
Pick: LSU +5.5