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Kentucky Comes to Town for a Big Valentine’s Day Showdown on the Hardwood

It’s still weird to think that Auburn is sitting atop the SEC in basketball.

Like, really weird.

It’s still weird to see any number next to Auburn’s name in basketball, let alone number 10.

Like, really weird.

It’s even weirder when John Calapari brings his usually highly-ranked, red hot, freshman-laden team into Auburn Arena on a three game losing streak. It’s still full of freshman, but this Wildcats team is 6-6 in SEC play right now, and is currently unranked. Auburn is 12-1 inside the comforts of home at Auburn Arena, while Kentucky is just 3-4 on the road this year. On paper, Auburn looks like the better team, and frankly should beat Kentucky.

With that said, here are three things to watch out for tonight:

1. Will Bryce Brown play?

It seems likely. After suffering a shoulder injury one week ago in the Tigers 81-80 loss to Texas A&M (the only loss at Auburn Arena all season long for AU). Auburn will not only need the 16.6 points per game that Brown is currently averaging, but his stellar defense as well. Defense is going to be a huge key for Auburn in this game to stop Kentucky’s offense (duh, you need to score more than your opponent), and Bryce Brown is the guy that would best lead that charge. If Brown plays (like I expect him to) and is effective, Auburn should have no problem in this game. If not, guys like Mustapha Heron, Davion Mitchell, Jared Harper and **THE BIG KEY** Desean Murray will need to step up in all facets of the game.

2. Battle of the Boards.

Kentucky may be young once again, but they are also tall. It’s going to be vital to whoever wins this game tonight to win the rebounding battle. On the season, the teams are pretty even in that category, with Kentucky averaging 38.9 rebounds per game, compared to 38.2 for Auburn. Auburn got killed on the glass 33-22 against Texas A&M last Wednesday night, and that will need to improve if Auburn wants to beat a long and talented Kentucky team.

3. What will the crowd look like?

With it being Valentine’s Day, the Auburn Arena crowd will either be a date-night paradise, happy couples as far as the eye can see, Or……it’s going to look like a Dungeons and Dragons convention. Plus, the Auburn fans are likely to be relentless to former coach (now an assistant on UK) Tony Barbee, despite Bruce Pearl’s pleas to do otherwise.

The Prediction:

This is still a good Kentucky team, but this crew hasn’t been on the business end of a hostile environment like Auburn Arena. It’s still going to be a high scoring game, and Auburn squeaks it out in front what is undoubtedly going to be the best crowd of the season at Auburn Arena.

Auburn 86 Kentucky 80

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