The no. 6 Kentucky Wildcats will try to bounce back from their loss over the weekend when they visit the Ole Miss Rebels on Tuesday night. The Wildcats are listed as 5-point road favorites.
The Rebels have endured some bad luck recently as they try to secure a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Ole Miss saw their upset bid over Tennessee fall short in heartbreaking fashion and followed it up with a 1-point road loss against Arkansas. The Rebels have now lost three of their last four games, making them 9-7 in SEC play and 19-10 overall, putting them on the bubble.
Kentucky, on the other hand, is firmly in the tournament and in the running for a no. 1 seed. However, their loss to Tennessee over the weekend could end up costing them the SEC championship. It was Kentucky’s third loss in SEC play, and now the Wildcats will need to win their final two games and get a little help in order to win the regular-season title in the SEC.
The Wildcats were architects of their own downfall against Tennessee. They committed 17 turnovers and had a poor shooting night against the Vols, leaving them with a season-low 52 points. Such a poor game is obviously a rarity for Kentucky and much of the credit goes to Tennessee for an outstanding performance. However, the young Wildcats must find a way to rally and respond in another tough road environment against a desperate team.
Of course, the status of grad transfer Reid Travis remains up in the air for the Wildcats. Travis has missed the last three games and doesn’t appear likely to play on Tuesday. He was undoubtedly missed during the loss to Tennessee, as he’s strong defensively and gives the Wildcats a capable inside scorer. Kentucky should find a way to get by without him against Ole Miss, but it does add to the pressure on the team’s young players to be without their most experienced player.
More Than Two
The Ole Miss backcourt duo of Breein Tyree and Terence Davis has carried the Rebels all season. Together, they average over 33 points per game, and there has been no let up recently, even with Ole Miss going through a losing skid. The key for the Rebels is getting contributions from their supporting cast. While upperclassmen like Tyree and Davis have been consistent, the same hasn’t always been the case for sophomore Devontae Shuler and freshman Blake Hinson. The Rebels need both to play well against Kentucky’s loaded backcourt to have a chance.
The biggest concern for Ole Miss against Kentucky could be their lack of height. The Rebels have just one player over 6’8’’ in their rotation, so holding their own in the frontcourt can be a problem at times. It’s an issue that has held them back at times and makes it even more vital for their young guards to play at a high level against the Wildcats.
Back to Business
Kentucky ran into a buzzsaw over the weekend at Tennessee, but they should be able to get back on their feet quickly. Even if Travis remains sidelined, Ole Miss doesn’t have the size to take advantage of his absence. The Rebels will put up a fight, but the Wildcats will pull away late. Bet on Kentucky to cover the 5-point spread.