The day is just starting, and we are already seeing some shocking results pour in. The early headliner on the day is the Kansas Jayhawks, who continued their recent struggles, as they went into Norman, Oklahoma today and lost to the Oklahoma Sooners. Kansas has now shockingly lost three straight games, and life in the Big 12 continues to prove difficult for a team that was ranked as highly as #3 in the nation earlier this year. The win was a big one for OU, as the Sooners are now back above .500 in league play at 4-3 and are now looking like a team safely inside the field of 68 for the NCAA tournament.
In what has been a tough morning for the nation’s top-25, the Virginia Tech Hokies also lost today, getting blown out at Syracuse. The Orange dominated throughout and knocked off the Hokies by a final score of 78-60. You don’t hear much about Syracuse this year, but at 3-3 in ACC play, they are liking their chances at finishing in the top half of the league and getting an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament, and this win will go a long way into securing that bid on Selection Sunday.
🗣 BOOMER SOONER!
Oklahoma takes down No. 9 Kansas to hand the Jayhawks their 3rd straight loss. pic.twitter.com/VvJNeFhVJ0
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) January 23, 2021
The 3rd ranked team to already go down this morning was UCONN, as the Huskies came up short at Creighton. The Blue Jays are certainly a very talented team, as they have spent much of the year ranked in the top-10 nationally, but Greg McDermott’s team had lost back-to-back games before getting back on track today at home, and the win was much needed. For UCONN, the Huskies got swept in the season series with Creighton with the loss, and they have now lost two straight games and will likely drop back out of the top-25 after cracking the rankings for the first time last week.
- LSU Tigers (10-3) at Kentucky Wildcats (4-9)
- Rupp Arena, Lexington
- 3:00 PM PST
- TV: ESPN
The struggling Kentucky Wildcats are in desperate need of a victory today as they host the LSU Tigers in an SEC conference game. In what could very well be the worst team that head coach John Calipari has ever had in Lexington, the Wildcats are just 4-9 on the season and would need a big finish to make the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats are hoping to snap a 3-game losing streak tonight at home and avoid losing for the 4th time already this season at Rupp Arena.
Bounce Back 🤘
— LSU Basketball (@LSUBasketball) January 23, 2021
For LSU, the Tigers have their sights set on a regular-season SEC title, as they are in 2nd place, trailing only the Crimson Tide of Alabama. The Tigers are coming off of a nasty blowout loss to Alabama in their last game, where the Crimson Tide couldn’t miss a shot, and set the all-time record in 3-pointers made in a game and would love to get back on track tonight and pick up their 6th conference victory against Kentucky.
Kentucky Wildcats (4-9)
It wasn’t all that long ago that people were talking about how amazing this recruiting class was for Kentucky and projecting them not only as SEC champs, but potential national champs as well. Then the season started, and it’s all been downhill from here.
The Wildcats were an embarrassing 1-6 in the non-conference, and while all of those losses came to top-100 teams, losses to Richmond, Georgia Tech, and Notre Dame all came to teams that, if the season ended today, likely wouldn’t be playing in the NCAA tournament. And the losses to North Carolina, Louisville, and Kansas are looking worse by the day as each of those teams aren’t playing very well right now either.
When Kentucky won their first 3 SEC games, just about everyone said to themselves, OK, here it is, this is the Kentucky team that we all expected. The Wildcats own the SEC, and it looked like they had figured things out. But as college football legend Lee Corso likes to say, not so fast! The Wildcats followed up that 3-0 start by losing their next 3 games, with losses to Alabama, Auburn, and Georgia. Ouch. At the halfway point of the season, not only are the Wildcats a team that isn’t ranked in the top-25, they aren’t even a team that is going to make the NCAA tournament unless they have a very strong finish.
LSU Tigers (10-3)
LSU had heavy expectations coming into this season as they were expected to compete with the likes of Kentucky, Florida, and Tennessee for the SEC regular-season league title. And for the most part, they have lived up to that hype as they have played well.
The shellacking by Alabama certainly wasn’t any fun for Tigers fans, but the Crimson Tide just might be a lot better than anybody expected, as they are beating everyone right now. LSU played a very soft schedule in the non-conference, but they are making up for lost time in SEC play as they have top-100 victories over Georgia, Ole Miss, Arkansas, and South Carolina.
Cameron Thomas was a big-time recruit coming out of prep basketball powerhouse Oak Hill Academy, but even as a 5-star recruit, he has exceeded all expectations this season for Will Wade’s Tigers. Thomas leads the entire SEC in scoring at 22 points per game and has been nearly unstoppable in SEC play. Thomas gets to the line with ease and has racked up 20+ points in 9 out of the 13 games he has played in. Those numbers come despite the fact that he has yet to find his stroke from 3-point land, shooting just 30% from beyond the arc.
Who Do I Like?
This game is packed with star freshman, and while Terrence Clarke and BJ Boston came into the season with significantly more hype, it is clear at this point that Cameron Thomas will be the best youngster on the court tonight. Boston and Clarke have been almost unbelievably bad shooting the basketball from the perimeter, but that hasn’t stopped them from jacking up shots, and it is really hurting the team.
Boston has made just 7 3’s this year out of 43 attempts for a mind-numbingly bad 16%. Before Clarke got hurt, he was shooting only 22% from deep. As a team, the Wildcats are making only 28% of their 3-pointers, 317th in the nation.
Despite all of these well-documented struggles, Kentucky continues to be favored in most games. The public just can’t seem to wrap their head’s around the fact that this team just isn’t what we all thought it was going to be and that they are bad. Kentucky has the worst ATS record in the SEC this season at 2-6, and they are even worse as home favorites, at just 1-4 ATS. Despite covering just 20% of the time at home, they are once again favored tonight in this one, over a solid LSU team, and it just doesn’t make a ton of sense.
LSU opened as -1-point road favorites, and the public saw Kentucky as home dogs and jumped all over it, moving the number two and a half points towards the Wildcats. I mean, I get it, home dogs in league play are always nice spots, but Kentucky is awful right now, and they just shouldn’t be favorites against any quality teams, no matter where the game is being played.
To remind those folks out there that haven’t followed Kentucky closely this year, the Wildcats have home-court losses to Richmond and Notre Dame. Rupp Arena just doesn’t have that same allure without a packed house full of screaming fans.
Kentucky is probably playing a little bit better than their awful record shows. That’s mostly because they have been terrible in close games. They lost to Kansas by a bucket, Notre Dame by a single point, Louisville by three, and Georgia by one at the buzzer. Of the Wildcats 9 losses, 6 of them have come by single digits. While there is always a lot of variance in close games, there is also something to be said for teams that can’t finish games. The Wildcats are super young and inexperienced, and without their best players playing well, they don’t have a go-to guy to take the big shot late in the game, and it has cost the.
I think that it costs them again tonight. LSU has to be fired up after getting smashed at home in their last game, and they are going to take it out on the Wildcats. The game is sure to be tightly contested, as most all of Kentucky’s games have been, but when it comes down to crunch time, expect Kentucky to find a way to blow another game late. Give me the LSU Tigers and a point and a half tonight on the road as Kentucky’s nightmare of a season continues.