Busting Brackets

Kentucky at Auburn: 2023-24 college basketball game preview, TV schedule

Auburn is a perfect 13-0 at home and Kentucky is looking to get fully back on track. Who will get the resume-boosting victory on Saturday night?

Alabama v Auburn
Alabama v Auburn / Michael Chang/GettyImages

The Kentucky Wildcats face the Auburn Tigers, who are undefeated at home, in a crucial mid-February SEC showdown at Neville Arena on Feb. 17.

TV schedule: Saturday, Feb. 17, 5:00 p.m. CT. ESPN

Arena: Neville Arena in Auburn, Alabama 

With ESPN College GameDay coming to town and students camping out, the anticipation for a top-25 SEC showdown cannot get any higher. After all, the road to Selection Sunday continues to closer and closer with each and every game.

On Saturday night, the 22nd-ranked Kentucky Wildcats (17-7) will travel to the not-so-friendly confines of Neville Arena on Saturday, Feb. 17 to take on the 13th-ranked Auburn Tigers (20-5) in a pivotal, mid-February SEC matchup with regular-season title implications on the line.

Simply put for Kentucky, the Wildcats have not been playing good basketball as of late. Having gone 3-4 in their past seven games -- which included a stretch where Kentucky lost three-straight home games for the first time in Rupp Arena -- the Wildcats’ struggles persisted on the defensive end where they allowed 92 PPG in regulation minutes amidst their three-game losing streak at Rupp Arena.

Despite the recent struggles, John Calipari’s group got back in the win column this week with a comfortable 75-63 win over Ole Miss in Lexington. Tre Mitchell was back in the lineup, although his status for Saturday is uncertain at the time of publication due to a shoulder injury he sustained in the second half;

As for Auburn, the Tigers have one of the more astonishing home and away splits from any team in college basketball. A prime example would be what transpired in the past two games in which the Tigers lost by 17 on the road to Florida and followed that loss up with a 40-point drubbing over white-hot South Carolina to remain a perfect 13-0 at home.

Auburn -- who stands right in the thick of the SEC regular-season title race at 9-3 -- heads into Saturday’s matchup with just two Q1 wins on the year and is looking to pad their resume despite being near the three or four-seed threshold, according to BracketMatrix, thanks to strong predictive metrics.

Led by Johni Broome (16.2 PPG, 8.4 RPG) and Jaylin Williams (13.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG), both Broome and Williams will look to stay hot on Saturday as they combined for 16 for 26 shooting from the field and shot nine for 12 from three in Wednesday night's win.

Kentucky, led by veterans Antonio Reeves (19.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG), Tre Mitchell (12.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG) and the freshman core of Rob Dillingham, Reed Sheppard and D.J. Wagner and Justin Edwards only has two Q1 wins on the year as well but lower predictive metrics seem to place the Wildcats as a strong seven seed compared to Auburn's three seed.

In a game that will likely be a fast-paced and high-scoring affair despite Auburn’s strong defensive efficiency metrics and ability to slow teams down, expect the Tigers to attack Kentucky defensively through ball screen action and by generating second-chance points. The Tigers average over 10 offensive rebounds per game, according to TeamRankings, and will look to exploit a Kentucky team that is below-average in defensive rebounding.

Although the scale seems to point in the Tiger's favor, don’t expect Kentucky to fold over. Despite recent defensive struggles, the Wildcats still boast one of the higher-upside teams in college basketball to give them enough offensive firepower to hang tough in a raucous environment even if Tre Mitchell is in the lineup or not.

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Despite that, it’s hard to bet against a team that has been so strong all year at home. 

Prediction: Auburn 85, Kentucky 77