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Auburn Scouting Report

Updated: Jan 22, 2022

It has been...

- 754 days since Kentucky's last top 10 win (#3 Louisville).

- 1,070 days since Kentucky's last top 10 SEC win (#1 Tennessee).

- 1,455 days since Kentucky's last top 10 road win (#7 West Virginia).

At 3:00 pm ET tomorrow, all of these numbers can go down to 0. In one of the most anticipated college basketball matchups of this season to date, the #12 Kentucky Wildcats travel into "The Jungle" to take on the #2 Auburn Tigers.

These SEC foes make for two of the hottest teams in college basketball. Auburn (17-1, 6-0) is off to a perfect 6-0 start in conference play and hasn't lost since November 24, a game that went to double overtime. Kentucky (15-3, 5-1) is coming off of two of their biggest wins of the season: a 28 point blowout over #22 Tennessee and a gritty road win in a hostile environment over Texas A&M. On the line: the lead in the SEC standings and bragging rights, as this will be the lone regular season matchup between the 2 SEC powerhouses.

What has made Auburn so dominant? How will Kentucky matchup? What does Kentucky have to do to "griddy" out of Auburn Arena with a W? Well make yourself a cup of coffee, put on your reading glasses, and come find out.

Bench Play

One of Auburn's biggest keys to their success has been their depth. Their bench has outscored their opponents in 15 of their 18 games (won all 15), averaging 29.4 points per game off of the bench. They also have no one averaging more than 27 minutes per game, so their stars constantly have fresh legs down the stretch.

This second unit is lead by 5'11" guard Wendell Green Jr, who averages 13.1 points, 5.1 assists, and 4.0 rebounds per game - all top three for the Tigers. Green is one of the quickest and toughest players on the floor at all times, and he uses both of these attributes aggressively and effectively. On the defensive end, he keeps his feet in front of opposing ball handlers to force long jump shots and draws chargers. On the offensive end, he gets his feet in the paint to get himself and his teammates open looks.

On top of being able to consistently get to the paint, he is also one of the best shooters on the team. He ranks second for Auburn in 3 pointers made, while shooting a respectable 35.4% from behind the arc.

To counter, Davion Mintz and Jacob Toppin need to be at the top of their games coming off of the bench for the Cats. Good news - they have been just that since the beginning of SEC play, especially on the road.

While it might not show up in the stats, Jacob Toppin has been valuable to this team as of late. He single handedly kept us in the game during the first half against LSU with his scoring, while his energy, rebounding, and defense were one of the biggest reasons why we were able to come out of College Station with a win over Texas A&M.

Davion Mintz has also been red hot as of late, especially shooting the ball. In our last 5 games, Davion has shot 14/28 (50%) from behind the arc, while averaging 12.8 points per game.

Mintz and Toppin outplaying arguably the best bench in the country can ultimately be what puts Kentucky over the top in this game.

Battle of the Bigs

Oscar Tshiebwe of West Virginia and Walker Kessler of North Carolina both put their names in the transfer portal last season. Both have been absolutely thriving in their new homes, being two of the biggest transfer portal additions in the country this season.

As we know, Oscar is setting Rupp Arena records, putting up Wilt Chamberlain stats, and leading the nation in rebounding. Kessler, on the other hand, has been dominant in his own way, ranking second in the country in blocked shots with 4.2 per contest.

Having the most aggressive rebounder in the country with the most aggressive shot blocker in the country, battling it out in the same paint can make for one of the best individual head-to-head matchups we have seen all year. It can also make for an SEC referee ‘showcase’ with a whistle being blown every 30 seconds.

Let's hope for the former rather than the latter, but the back up bigs - Lance Ware and Daimion Collins for Kentucky and Jaylin Williams and Dylan Cardwell for Auburn - could make for a game deciding head-to-head matchup as well.

Our guards are going to have to get comfortable with making floaters because not many layups are gotten off cleanly with Walker Kessler on the floor. Oscar also has to be physical in the paint to make Kessler uncomfortable. Kessler is best playing free on defense where he is able to hunt down shots, but can struggle when a physical body is posted up on him.

Auburn is a solid perimeter team, but Kentucky's backcourt is better. Win the battle down low and force Auburn to play out on the perimeter and Kentucky will have a great chance to win this game.

Diaper Dandies

I have said it all year long - this team goes as TyTy Washington goes. When you have a bunch of proven veterans like Sahvir Wheeler, Oscar Tshiebwe, and Kellan Grady, you know more or less what you are going to get from them on a nightly basis. But the freshman TyTy Washington is the X-factor - the man that will ultimately determine how good of a basketball team Kentucky will be.

Auburn has one of those freshman X-factors themselves, Jabari Smith. The 6'10" forward, who many are projecting to be the #1 pick in the upcoming 2022 NBA draft, has been the main reason Auburn is currently a top two team in the country. TyTy and Jabari have shared the SEC Freshman of the Week Award with each other for each of the past 3 weeks.

Jabari has size, physicality, perimeter skills, and is also one of the best shooters in the country. He can easily dribble past defenders to get to the rim, or shoot over the top with a knockdown face-up jumper. He is very comfortable taking this face-up jumper either in the midrange, or behind the arc where he is currently shooting 43.0%.

I expect Jacob Toppin to be the primary defender on Jabari, but there is no real way to stop him 1-on-1. We will need to try our best as an entire defensive unit to contain him, and make sure he is not the one to beat us.

If Kentucky wants to take down the #2 team in the country, TyTy Washington needs to be the best player on the floor for either team. This team goes as TyTy Washington goes.

Game Info & Prediction

If you are one of the lucky fans to have a ticket to this game (tickets are starting at $350+), then you will be watching from Auburn Arena at 12:00 pm CT. If you are watching from the comfort of your home, the game will be nationally televised on CBS at 1:00 pm ET.

I predict Kentucky wins in the three key areas noted above and comes out of the most hostile environment in college basketball with Coach Cal's 800th career win. Kentucky will win 75-71, lead by a 25 point statement performance from TyTy Washington.

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I sure hope your prediction is "spot on". I believe the tough game at Texas A&M will prepare our Cats for a hostile environment. This game is going to be a "Battle for the Ages" and hopefully BBN will enjoy the final result tomorrow. JS! BBN4EVER

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