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By RICHARD CHEEKS
The first half of the SEC is not a matter of record, and the Cats find themselves a game off the pace that Florida is setting. The Cats have won four consecutive games, matching their longest win streak of this season when the Cats took care of #193 Samford, #272 Portland, #307 Lipscomb, and #216 Marshall before losing the road game at Louisville. If the Cats take care of business on Saturday, they will carry their longest win streak of the year, 5 games, into modern version of Alligator Alley against #1 Florida next Tuesday.
When the Auburn Tigers come into Rupp, it will be the second rematch of the 2012-13 season, the first being the home loss and road win against #88 Texas A&M. In addition to Auburn, the second half of the schedule will include 4 rematches, including both of the Florida games over the final 8 game span. On January 19, the Cats turned in one of their 4 or 5 best game performances of the season when the Cats beat Auburn at Auburn by 22 points, 75-53. The Cats have won 4 of their 5 games since beating Auburn. In contrast, Auburn has lost 4 of their 5 games since losing to the Cats. Ironically, Auburn got its sole win against Alabama, the same team that handed the Cats their only loss.
The Cats did not exactly take advantage of the opportunity to extend their game to a new, higher level against South Carolina, and for that reason, the Auburn game takes on a greater importance for the Cats to play their game for the full 40, and post a convincing win over a SEC lower division opponent at Rupp.
Auburn enters this game with a 9-13 record, 3-6 in the SEC. AUBURN’s most impressive game since they played the Cats has been this week’s 12 point handling of #80 Alabama at Auburn and a 2 point home loss to #28 Mississippi. However, the Tigers lost by 12 at #150 Vanderbilt, and by 8 at #117 Georgia The AUBURN non-conference schedule strength was only 0..3346 (#323rd out of 347 D1 teams) and since starting SEC play, the Auburn overall schedule strength has risen to only 0.5082 (#143rd).
AUBURN has averaged between 68 and 69 possessions per game, producing 66.7 ppg (0.97 ppp) and allowing 66.4 ppg (0.97 ppp). AUBURN has turned the ball over on 20.1% of its possessions while forcing turnovers on 21.4% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, AUBURN has secured an offensive rebounding rate of 32.3% about 1% below the 33% NCAA average, and a defensive rebounding rate of 69.1%, about 2 to 3% above the NCAA average.
In contrast, the Cats have averaged about 70 possessions per game, producing 76.2 ppg (1.09 ppp) and allowing 62.9 ppg (0.90 ppp) against a schedule strength of 0..5953 (72nd). The Cats have committed turnovers on 19.1% of its possessions and forced turnovers on 18.3% of opponent possessions. On the Boards, the Cats’ rebounding rates have been 34.2% and 69.6% on the offensive and defensive ends.
Based on this distribution, the analysis tips in favor of Kentucky by 22 points, 79-57 in a game played at a pace of 69 possessions for the Cats and 69 possessions for AUBURN. Pomeroy figures the Game in Kentucky’s favor by 18 points, 77-59 at a pace of 69 possessions. The likely margin range for this matchup is 13 to 31 points.