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Men's Basketball

Kentucky vs. Auburn: TV/Streaming Info, Keys to the Game, and Predictions

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Kentucky travels to Auburn for a tough SEC road matchup, looking to pull an upset.
Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

After ending a three-game home skid with a win over Ole Miss, Kentucky Basketball will go on the road to “The Jungle” for one of their toughest games of the season, facing Bruce Pearl and the No. 13 Auburn Tigers with College GameDay in town.

While this Auburn team has seven players from last year’s squad who lost to Kentucky by 32 points last season, they are not the same team. This season, the Tigers have added 5-star guard Aden Holloway, who played alongside Rob Dillingham for much of his youth basketball career, Denver Jones, a 20 PPG scorer from FIU, and Chad Baker-Mazara, one of the top JUCO players in the country last season.

Together, they are a team that moves the ball very well and defends at a high level, ranking top 10 in both KenPom offensive and defensive efficiency.

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Here’s what to watch for when Kentucky battles the Tigers.

Win the Boards

Good rebounding and physical teams are the ones that Kentucky has struggled with this season. SEC teams like South Carolina and Tennessee fit that bill, and in those games, it never really felt like Kentucky had a chance. Auburn is characterized in the same way.

Over the last few weeks, the Kentucky staff and players have talked about needing to improve their physicality and effort in rebounding. Saturday will provide the latest opportunity to see how the Wildcats perform against such a team.

With Tre Mitchell potentially out (more on that later), a lot will rely on the 7-footers, who will have to play with more physicality and make better decisions. However, the Tigers have a small backcourt, which Kentucky could take advantage of.

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Stick to the Game Plan

This Kentucky team has struggled on the road. Outside of a blowout win against Vanderbilt, the Wildcats have won two other games by an average of just four points, and losing two others.

Auburn has yet to lose at home this season and has beaten SEC opponents by an average of more than 20 points at home, including a 40-point win against No. 11 South Carolina this week. With a sold-out College GameDay environment and an arena layout that makes it feel like the crowd is on top of you, it will be the most difficult environment Kentucky has played in this season.

In road games this season, Kentucky has let the crowd affect them, which has led to them playing outside of themselves and the scouting report. They cannot do that on Saturday. If they do, it could be an ugly loss.

Tre Mitchell Watch

Kentucky had a full and healthy roster for the first time this season and all of 24 minutes on Tuesday against Ole Miss, as Tre Mitchell checked out in the second half with a shoulder injury.

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At the time of this article, his status is unclear, but it does not look promising for Saturday.

A leader on the court, Mitchell is someone that the younger players look to when things aren’t going right. When he is not out there, it’s easy to see that Kentucky misses that presence. However, the game will be played with or without him.

Could Justin Edwards continue his improvement and have a big game in his absence? Could Adou Thiero, who is throwing down 360 dunks in warmups as his back is feeling better, have a productive game like he did against Gonzaga?

More importantly, will guys like Ugonna Onyenso, Aaron Bradshaw, and/or Zvonimir Ivisic be able to step up in a hostile environment to help offset Mitchell being limited or out altogether? That will be a big key to Kentucky being capable of winning this game.

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Opposing Players to Watch

F Johni Broome 6-10, 240 lbs

  • 16.2 PPG (8th in SEC)
  • 8.4 RPG (2nd in SEC)
  • 2.4 BPG (2nd in SEC)
  • 55.4% FG (2nd in SEC)

F Jaylin Williams 6-8, 245 lbs

  • 13.4 PPG
  • 4.9 RPG
  • 42.6% 3P (9th in SEC)

G Tre Donaldson 6-3, 200 lbs

  • 7.2 PPG
  • 3.8 APG
  • 2.5 RPG

Kentucky Basketball vs. Auburn Tigers

  • Time: 6 PM EST on Feb. 17th
  • Location: Neville Arena in Auburn, Alabama
  • TV Channel: ESPN will have TV coverage.
  • Announcers: Dan Shulman, Jay Bilas, and Jess Simms are calling the action.
  • Online Stream: Stream the game online using WatchESPN and the ESPN app.
  • Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the radio call on the UK Sports Radio Network.
  • Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings).
  • Rosters: UK | AUB
  • Stats to Know: UK | AUB
  • KenPom: UK | AUB
  • Team Sheet: UK | AUB
  • Odds: The odds for the game have yet to be released, but check out SportsBetExpert for your picks. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives the Cats just a 14.9% chance of achieving victory. EvanMiya and BartTorvik are at 14.2% at 16%, respectively, while KenPom is at 18%.
  • Predictions: Bart Torvik picks Kentucky to lose 90-78. Haslametrics and EvanMiya has them losing 88-77 and 87-76. KenPom is the “nicest” with an 87-77 loss for the Cats.

Also published on A Sea of Blue.

Men's Basketball

Rick Pitino Endorses Mark Pope, “He Will Lead The Kentucky Wildcats To Another Championship”

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Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports/ Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The captain of Rick Pitino’s 1996 “Untouchables”, Mark Pope, is “coming home” to lead the Kentucky Wildcats as the program’s next head coach, officially announced on Friday. While there has been some criticism of the hire, Pitino says he “couldn’t be any prouder to see Mark Pope lead the Kentucky Wildcats.”

While Pope has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game in two appearances, Pitino points out that several top coaches had their trials early in their careers. It took Jay Wright 11 seasons to win his first NCAA Tournament, and Billy Donovan was hired at Florida without an NCAA Tournament appearance. However, he heralds Pope as one of the “premier young coaches” in college basketball.

“Offensively, no one does it better,” Pitino said. “The way his teams move. The way his teams shoot the three. The ball movement. It’s outstanding.”

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It’s just the X’s and O’s though, Pitino “guarantees” that Pope loves and understands the program as well as anyone. “I can guarantee to you one thing, that nobody epitomizes the name on the front of the jersey more than Mark Pope.”

“Mark Pope will go on to greatness. You can put it down,” Pitino said. “He will do you proud. “He will lead the Kentucky Wildcats to another championship”

If his endorsement isn’t enough, Rick Pitino says he will “write the check himself” for NIL to help Pope be successful.

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Men's Basketball

Mark Pope Releases Statement As He Is Announced As Kentucky Basketball Coach

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Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Per UK Athletics

When his alma mater came calling, Mark Pope knew there was no place like home.

Pope, a captain of the University of Kentucky’s 1996 National Championship team, has returned to Lexington as the 23rd head coach of Kentucky’s storied men’s basketball program, announced Friday.

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“The University of Kentucky is the pinnacle of coaching in college basketball,” Pope said. “It’s the definition of a blueblood program where hanging a banner is the expectation every year. Equally as important, UK changed my life forever as a human being. The love and passion I have for this program, this University and the people of the Commonwealth goes to the depth of my soul.”

“I’m thankful to Dr. (Eli) Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart for this opportunity. I’m proud to be your next head coach and I can’t wait to do this together!”

Pope is a nine-year head coaching veteran with stops at BYU and Utah Valley, amassing a 187-108 career record. His squads won 20 or more games in six of the last seven seasons and he has made six postseason appearances.

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Men's Basketball

REPORT: Mark Pope Set Sign Five-Year Deal to Become Next Kentucky Basketball Coach

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Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky has found their guy. Former Wildcat and NCAA Champion, Mark Pope, is now expected to be named the next Kentucky basketball coach on a five-year contract worth $5.5 million annually, first reported by CBS Sports. For perspective, based on last season’s salaries, that is more than Dan Hurley (UConn), Scott Drew (Baylor), and Nate Oats (Alabama).

Pope comes to Kentucky with nine seasons of head coaching experience, after serving as an assistant for six seasons, from 2009-2015. In 2015, he was hired by Utah Valley where he coached for four seasons. In 2019, Pope was hired at BYU where he has taken them to two NCAA Tournaments, but has been upset by a double-digit seed in both appearances.

Pope has proven himself as a good X-and-O coach in his nine-year career, running one of the most innovative offenses in the country, but recruiting will be a real test as he has never signed a four-star recruit. Who he hires on to his staff and collecting NIL support will be critical.

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The move has been met with much fan criticism, as fans have been quick to point out that Pope has never won a conference title or an NCAA Tournament game. However, Mitch Barnhart is confident in the move, with some reporting that he is “excited” with the hire.

Just three days into the coaching search, this is an interesting hire with several big names like Billy Donovan and Bruce Pearl potentially available. Barnhart made the decision not to wait for Donovan, who is currently coaching the Chicago Bulls, and Pearl was not considered due to his “baggage”.

A new era of Kentucky basketball has begun.

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