Cats Set to Kick off SEC Play vs Ole Miss

Tonight the young Kentucky Wildcats will get their first taste of SEC basketball.  Conference play is a completely different animal no matter what conference you are in and to make matters tougher it begins on the road.  Ole Miss enters the game with a 9-3 record that includes a win against Memphis and close losses to Virginia Tech and Creighton.  The Rebels are likely bound for the NIT tournament once again this season but they are still a solid opponent that the Cats must not overlook.  It will be a sold out arena and the best atmosphere that Ole Miss will have at home all season.

The Rebels leading scorer is Deandre Burnett who transferred from Miami and averages over 19 points a game.  Sebastian Saiz a 6’9 senior is their key player inside.  He averages a double-double with 15 points and 12 rebounds a game.  Terence Davis and Cullen Neal both average over 12 points a game in the backcourt with Burnett.  Ole Miss can score the ball pretty well but the defensive end of the floor has been a struggle for them as it has for the Wildcats.  They shoot the ball well from deep and are not afraid to take shots at any time and from anywhere.  If you catch them on a night that they are hot it can be very tough to beat them.

Kentucky is coming off a tough loss at Louisville over a week ago which should have the Cats ready to play tonight.  A huge key in any road game is to take the crowd out of it early on.  If a team can hang around it keeps the crowd fired up which can make things pretty tough down the stretch.  It will be interesting to see how the Cats play after several days of Camp Cal.  Expect to see an emphasis on getting the ball inside to Bam and a more intense defensive effort.

If the Cats hope to land a one seed in the NCAA tournament or a two seed at worst they probably need to lose only two or three games in conference play.  Winning on the road is never easy for a young team which makes each game like this crucial for the Cats.  It doesn’t matter if they win by 1 or by 20, they just need to win.  The line in Las Vegas opened with Kentucky as an 11 point favorite but I expect it to be a closer margin than that.  I think Kentucky will get the win but it will be a close game for much of the contest before the Cats close it out 82-77.  A win is a win.

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