Auburn vs. Kentucky Round 3: Everything You Need to Know About This Elite Matchup
The Auburn Tigers and Kentucky Wildcats will face each other for the third time this season in Sunday's Elite Eight matchup. Kentucky won the previous two meetings, notching an 82-80 victory at Auburn and dismantling the Tigers 80-53 at Kentucky. While this doesn't look ideal for Auburn, the Tigers have not lost since the shellacking in Lexington in late February.
A lot has changed since the previous meeting between these two teams. As noted, Auburn has not lost since then and is riding the nation's longest active win streak at 11. It wouldn't be a hyperbole to call the Tigers the hottest team in the country, but how well does Auburn stack up with Kentucky aside from that?
Obviously when you think of Auburn basketball, you think of pace and 3-pointers. Auburn has an advantage here more than doubling the amount of 3-pointers made by Kentucky 428-210. Auburn lead the nation in made threes this season. We'll start off with an easy one, advantage Auburn.
Size and length is something college basketball fans have come to associate with Kentucky over the years. It is no different this year. This will be a huge obstacle (no pun intended) in Auburn's path to the school's first Final Four appearance. Many of Kentucky's contributing players fall between the 6'6 - 6'9 mark, while Auburn's players fall between 6'3 ' 6'6 range. With forward Chuma Okeke out with a torn ACL, suffered in the the Sweet Sixteen tilt against North Carolina, players like Austin Wiley, Anfernee McLemore, and Danjel Purifoy will need to step up and provide the Tigers a much needed presence inside against Kentucky's length. Kentucky will take the advantage on this one.
Momentum As noted, Auburn will have a lot of momentum coming into this game for a multitude of reasons. The Tigers are riding the aforementioned 11-game winning streak, Auburn just knocked off two college "blue-bloods" in back to back contests, and Auburn has a chip on its shoulder, as the team generally consists of under-recruited players who will have another chance to prove a historic program wrong. With all of that being said, the Tigers will have to battle a predominately Kentucky-filled crowd on Sunday, if Friday's Sweet Sixteen showing is a precursor for the crowd on Sunday. If things start going right for Kentucky, the Tigers could be in trouble with, what would feel, like a true road game.
The Elite Eight matchup between Kentucky and Auburn should provide a much closer game than the late February encounter between the two teams. The Tigers will surely be missing star forward Chuma Okeke after his injury in Friday's game, but the team will certainly be ready to rally for their fallen teammate. The game will be an incredible test for Auburn and a chance for the program to flex its muscle, in terms of national perception.