Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @themulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.
The conference challenges roll on as the Big East / SEC Challenge gets started with two games at home for the SEC. Let’s take a look at the action for Thursday night.
St. John’s at #1 Kentucky – 7:30PM EST on ESPN2 HD (**)
- After a quick 3-0 start, St. John’s has dropped its last three out of four including a home loss to Northeastern. With such a young team and Steve Lavin’s health situation, Red Storm fans should expect this type of up and down play all season. The Red Storm have four starters scoring in double figures, but their bench is extremely thin. When faced with an athletic, hard-charging team like Kentucky fatigue will probably be a factor by the second half. While the Red Storm shoots a very respectable 54% from two, their three-point shooting is an abysmal 27.7%. Look for Kentucky to pack the lane and clean up the defensive boards.
- Kentucky’s defense has been incredible all year. Granted the Wildcats have not faced an extremely difficult schedule thus far, they are still holding teams to an eFG of 36%. Additionally, their block rate is an astronomical 25%. If St. John’s continues to struggle from outside the arc and cannot extend the Wildcat defense, expect a block party in Lexington. The UK offense is firing on all cylinders as well. John Calipari’s team has five players averaging double figures and key contributors off the bench in Kyle Wiltjer and Eloy Vargas. If Kentucky continues to play offense and defense like they have thus far, this game will not be close.
- Playing in Lexington is a tall task for any team. However, playing without your coach (Lavin needs more time to recover from prostate surgery) and playing with such a young team makes the task nearly impossible. While St. John’s may be able to keep the game close for a short period of time on sheer athleticism, expect this one to get ugly by the second half.