By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer
On Saturday morning, Kentucky was tied with LSU and Auburn at the top of the SEC standings at 9-2. By Saturday night, Kentucky stood alone atop the SEC by virtue of its come from behind win at Rupp Arena over Mississippi and LSU’s loss at Alabama and Auburn’s loss at Missouri.
Tonight, the Cats will face LSU in Baton Rouge in a game that carries real SEC regular season championship consequences for each team. A LSU win will leave these teams tied, and since they only play once, LSU owns the tie breaker over the Cats. On the other hand, if the Cats get out of Baton Rouge with a win, the Cats will remain alone in the led and LSU will drop out of contention.
A win at LSU would probably be sufficient to secure at least a tie for the regular season SEC championship, but a UK win at LSU does not end the race to secure the #1 seed for the upcoming SEC Tournament. The Cats must face Auburn a second time in Rupp, and a loss to Auburn would leave them tied, and Auburn would own the tie breaker over the Cats. Therefore, UK must beat LSU in Baton Rouge and Auburn at Rupp to secure the sole SEC regular season championship and the #1 seed in the tournament.
LSU brings its 18-7, 9-3 record into the Tuesday night encounter with the Cats. However, after a 17-4 start, LSU has dropped three of its last four games. The Bayou Bengals lost to #155 Vanderbilt by 9 (-0.05 ppp Game ANE), to #34 Auburn by 1 (0.24 ppp Game ANE), and at #46 Alabama by 6 (0.14 ppp Game ANE),. The only win in their last 4 games was against #92 Missouri by 4 (0.12 ppp Game ANE). LSU has posted an average ANE over these last 4 games of 0.11 ppp.
Kentucky also brings a four-game winning streak into this game. After losing at Auburn, the Cats have beaten Mississippi State by 8 (0.22 ppp Game ANE), Tennessee by 13 (0.43 ppp Game ANE), Vanderbilt by 14 (0.28 ppp Game ANE), and Mississippi by 5 (0.12 ppp Game ANE), which is an average ANE of 0.26 ppp over these last 4 games.
LSU’s season ANE of 0.196 ppp against a schedule strength of 0.083 ppp and an average tempo of 71.1 possessions per game. Kentucky’s season ANE of 0.201 ppp against a schedule strength of 0.066 ppp at an average tempo of 69.3.
The ANE analysis based on these season profiles points to an 3 point LSU win, 75-72 in a game played with 70 possessions. If the teams play on Tuesday night as they each have played their last four games, then the Cats should beat the Tigers by 7, 77-70.