The best team in the country will make their debut in the SEC tournament on Friday when the LSU Tigers take on the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats.
The game is officially a neutral site game, although it is in LSU's home state of Louisiana. Kentucky handily won the season's first meeting between the two teams, 74-50.
The Tigers (No. 8 in the SEC) got here by beating Arkansas (No. 9 in the SEC) 70-54 on Thursday. The Wildcats are No. 1 in the conference and in the country and received a bye into the second round.
Where: New Orleans Arena. New Orleans, Louisiana.
When: Friday, March 9 at 1 p.m. EST
Watch: SEC Network. Streamed at ESPN3
LSU Radio Network. WNXX 104.5 FM in Baton Rouge. Full list of affiliates found at LSUFootball.net.
UK Sports Network. WLAP 630 AM, WBUL 98.1 FM in Lexington. Full list of affiliates found at UKAthletics.com.
Kentucky (-17), according to Sportsbook.
With that spread, go with LSU. Make no mistake about it, the Wildcats are the better team and by game's end that won't be in question, but all of the motivation is with LSU, and they're effectively playing a home game. That will be enough to stay within 17.
Per USA Today.
LSU has no injuries to report.
Kentucky G John Hood and G Sam Malone are both out.
Kentucky F Anthony Davis is probable.
What's at Stake?
A lot more is on the line for LSU. They are No. 89 in the RPI and effectively need to win the conference tournament to get in to the NCAA.
For Kentucky, it's just a matter of staying confident. They are easily a No. 1 seed, no matter what happens in this game.
What They're Saying
Jim Kleinpeter of The Times Picayune quoted LSU Coach Trent Johnson in a press conference before the win against Arkansas. He was excited about the start of the tournament, after finishing the league season with three straight losses.
"Well, what a difference two weeks makes for us. Obviously the last two weeks haven't been very good in terms of us being able to play well, but we're looking forward to a new season. And this is a fresh start for be us."
After seeing a 70-54 first round victory, it seems as though the team is responding well to the fresh start.
Kyle Tucker of the Louisville-Courier Journal wrote that Kentucky Coach John Capipari is not concerned with what has been done, or what will happen this week in New Orleans.
Christmas 2011 was still two weeks away the last time the Wildcats lost a game, and they have won 22 straight since, most of them by blowouts. Calipari says neither that nor anything that happens on this trip to the Big Easy matters. It’s all about getting back to New Orleans on the last weekend in March for the Final Four.
Most Important Player to Watch
LSU's Andre Stringer was the second leading scorer on the team, behind only Justin Hamilton. Stringer brought in 10 points a game during the regular season and if he doesn't score at least 15 against Kentucky, this game will not be close.
Justin Hamilton vs. Anthony Davis.
These are the best players on their respective teams and will be seeing a lot of each other during the game. Hamilton will have to find a way to significantly get the better of Davis.
No, that's not likely, but it is needed.
Prediction: Kentucky 73, LSU 61
The fact that the game is in New Orleans won't do any good for LSU. They will have more fans there, but Kentucky already handily beat the Tigers earlier in the season and did so in the Tigers' actual home arena. LSU will be a bit more inspired here, as there is no tomorrow with a loss, but they won't be close.