Kentucky freshman forward Nerlens Noel.
The Kentucky Wildcats basketball team came into the 2012-2013 season ranked No. 3 in the country, but things have become rather interesting for this Kentucky squad. Sure, they lost Player of the Year Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and other star players to the NBA, but this team was still a favorite to be a heavy contender in the SEC Conference.
Tuesday, January 29: Kentucky (13-6, 4-2 in the SEC) @ No.16 Ole Miss (17-2, 6-0 in the SEC) 9 PM ET ESPN
The Wildcats are 13-6 and 4-2 in conference play. They lost their first conference game at home to Texas A&M on January 12 and then their second at Alabama on January 22.
The Wildcats desperately need to win this game at No. 16 Ole Miss to help their chances of winning the SEC regular-season title and for positioning in the NCAA Tournament as well. Who would have thought at the beginning of the season that Kentucky would need to upset Ole Miss to get their season back on track? I surely did not.
The Ole Miss Rebels (17-2, 6-0 in the SEC) are one of the biggest surprises in college basketball this season. The Rebels are undefeated in SEC play with a big win over Missouri on January 12 and two recent wins that went to the very end against Tennessee and Auburn.
This surging Rebel team is led by junior guard Marshall Henderson and senior forward Murphy Holloway. Henderson has been averaging an impressive 19.2 points per game. Holloway has averaged 14.8 points per game and 10.4 rebounds per game.
Who will win tonight's game?
The Wildcats are going to have their hands full, but are fully capable of winning tonight.
Goodwin has averaged 14.6 points per game and 5.0 rebounds per game this season.
Poythress had a statement game this past Saturday in a 75-70 win over LSU. He recorded his first double-double with an impressive 20 points and 12 rebounds.
The defensive play from Noel should play a key role in Kentucky’s success tonight as well. Noel has averaged 6.6 blocks and 10.0 rebounds in his past five games. It doesn’t hurt that Noel averages 10.6 points per game either.
According to ESPN.com, freshman Willie Cauley-Stein could return tonight after missing their last three games because of a minor procedure done on his left knee. He averages 5.8 rebounds per game and is force down low because of his seven-foot height.
Kentucky has the talent to upset Ole Miss on road. It will be up to the Kentucky defense to contain a Rebel team that is rolling on a nine-game winning streak. I cannot emphasis how important it will be for the Wildcats to shut down Henderson and Holloway.
Noel, who is one of the best defenders in the country, will have his work cut out for him tonight. Look for Kentucky to rely on their freshman trio consisting of Goodwin, Poythress and Noel to get the job done and get back into the SEC title picture.