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Men’s Basketball Preview: South Carolina vs. Kentucky

Showdown in Lexington

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at South Carolina Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina vs. Kentucky
Date: Tuesday, January 10th
Time: 7:00 PM
Channel: ESPN2
Where: Rupp Arena - Lexington, KY

South Carolina is heading to Lexington to try and take down their SEC East rivals, the Kentucky Wildcats. Kentucky recently fell out of the top 25 in the AP Poll, but still remain ranked 25th in KenPom’s latest advanced metric ratings.

Over the years, Kentucky has dominated the Gamecocks with an all time series record of 54-13 in favor of the Wildcats. The most recent win for South Carolina was in 2020, where the Gamecocks took down the 10th ranked Wildcats at Colonial Life Arena. To put things in perspective, this would be an absolutely huge upset for the Gamecocks if they were to pull this off.

While Kentucky is having a down year for their standards, they are still a very solid squad. At 10-5, the Wildcats have some solid wins against Michigan and LSU. However, it seems whenever the Wildcats face a top-end team, they fail to execute. Kentucky’s five losses are Michigan State, Missouri, Alabama, UCLA, and Gonzaga, all of which have been ranked inside the top 25 at some point this season.

The Wildcats are lead by reigning John Wooden Award winner Oscar Tshiebwe, who is putting up 15.8 points a night on 58% shooting. Tshiebwe also leads the nation in rebounds per game with an absurd 13.2. To go along with all of those things, Tshiebwe is also the defensive anchor for the Wildcats, leading them to the 50th most effective defensive in the country according to KenPom.

Freshman guard and five-star recruit Cason Wallace also plays a huge role for Kentucky. Wallace does everything on the basketball court for the Wildcats, arguably being their best overall player. Wallace is averaging 12.1 points, 4 assists, and 3.7 rebounds per game on the season. However, Wallace’s best quality as a basketball player is his defensive ability. Wallace is one of the most electric defenders in the country, swiping 2.2 steals a night for the Wildcats.

South Carolina is coming off arguably their worst performance in a decade, losing by a whopping 43 points to Tennessee. The good thing about this is that it can’t get much worse from here. The only thing that could make this season more of a failure would be losing out, which would leave the Gamecocks without an SEC win. However, I don’t expect that to happen. I do, though, expect South Carolina to take a pretty harsh loss to this Kentucky squad.

For the Gamecocks to pull off this victory on the road, they need to start by actually wanting to be there. Head coach Lamont Paris stated that the team was “waiting for the time to run off the clock” against Tennessee, which is a very, very bad sign for Gamecock fans.

Another thing that the Gamecocks have to be better at is being disciplined. Early in the second half against Tennessee, Coach Paris was shouting at GG Jackson from the bench to make a defensive adjustment. Jackson waved off Paris, and continued to do his own thing. This led to Jackson being benched for the majority of the second half. These types of things just cannot happen on a good college basketball team.

The main aspect of this game that makes it even more difficult for South Carolina is the fact that the game is on the road. The Gamecocks are an atrocious 1-7 away from home compared to their 6-1 record at Colonial Life Arena. With the way this season is going, I’m just not sure if they can handle the tough Lexington crowd.

KenPom is giving the Gamecocks a 7% chance to pull off this upset against Kentucky with a score prediction of South Carolina 56, Kentucky 73

My Prediction: South Carolina 51, Kentucky 77