Saturday college basketball action is headlined by the two favorites at the moment to win the SEC as No. 2 Auburn hosts No. 12 Kentucky on CBS in a showdown between two of the hottest teams in the country. The Tigers (17-1, 6-0 SEC) have won 14 straight and narrowly missed out on being ranked No. 1 for the first time in program history this week. But the Wildcats (15-3, 5-1 SEC) are also surging.
UK has won eight of its last nine and can draw even atop the conference standings with the Tigers if it wins. A year ago, both Kentucky and Auburn were struggling through losing seasons that saw both programs finish in the bottom half of the SEC standings just one season after they finished first and second. The key to their simultaneous resurgence has been the excellent play of transfers and the emergence of star freshmen.
The Tigers are led in scoring by five-star freshman forward Jabari Smith, and their next three top scorers are each sophomore transfers fitting in seamlessly. Kentucky's top scorer and leading rebounder, Oscar Tshiebwe, is a transfer, and so is its best 3-point shooter, Kellan Grady, and its primary point guard, Sahvir Wheeler. UK's No. 2 3-point shooter and secondary point guard is five-star freshman TyTy Washington, the reigning CBS Sports/USBWA Freshman of the Week.
Veteran coaches Bruce Pearl from Auburn and John Calipari appear to have nailed the roster formula this season by finding the right mix of transfers, freshmen and returning contributors to thrive in college basketball. With Auburn not scheduled to make a return trip to Kentucky this season, Saturday's showdown between the two could end up being the only chance we get to see two of college basketball's most exciting squads square off.
How to watch Kentucky vs. Auburn live
Kentucky vs. Auburn prediction, picks
Auburn Arena should be completely unhinged for this game as the Tigers hunt for a victory that would get the attention of the AP voters who narrowly held them back from reaching No. 1 last week. The Kentucky offense has enjoyed impressive outings recently, but Auburn's guards should be pesky enough to disrupt the Wildcats' flow. On the interior, Walker Kessler's length should keep Oscar Tshiebwe from dominating. In the end, home court advantage will make the difference in a close Auburn win. Prediction: Auburn 76, Kentucky 71
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