The most talented player in the country faces perhaps the most talented team in the country on Tuesday when Ben Simmons and LSU hosts No. 8 Kentucky in SEC action. Simmons is almost certain to be the top pick in the 2016 NBA draft, while Kentucky’s Skal Labissiere and Jamal Murray could be top-five picks as well.
Simmons has been a dominant force over the first two months of his freshman year, posting averages of 20.5 points, 13.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.4 blocks. “You better have a gameplan A and B against him because he can go for 40 (points),” Kentucky coach John Calipari said to reporters. “He is a 6-9 point guard-ish guy that will go inside, score next to the basket, makes free throws so you can’t foul him and in transition when he brings it up he’s a great playmaker.” The talented Aussie has helped LSU to four wins in its last five games, while Kentucky has won two straight since a surprising loss to Ohio State. The Wildcats lead the all-time series 86-25 and have won three straight matchups with the Tigers, although two of those wins came by a combined three points.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
LINE HISTORY: Books opened LSU as a 5.5-point home dog, but that is now +4.5. The total is down to 155.5 from the opening 156.5.
Kentucky – N/A
LSU – Brian Bridgewater (Out indefinitely, leg)
ABOUT KENTUCKY (11-2 SU, 5-8 ATS, 7-6 O/U): The Wildcats are, of course, loaded with former McDonald’s All-Americans, but several of them have had a disappointing start to their first year in Lexington. Labissiere, once considered a threat to be the top pick in the 2016 draft, is averaging 9.2 points and 3.5 rebounds and has played 14 minutes or less in three of the last four games. Fellow freshman Isaiah Briscoe (21.1) and sophomore Tyler Ulis (28.8 percent) are both struggling from 3-point range, although Murray isn’t at 38.2 percent, and he leads the team in scoring at 16.8 points per game.
ABOUT LSU (8-5 SU, 4-6 ATS, 5-5 O/U): Simmons has shot at least 60 percent from the floor in six of his last seven games and has pulled down at least a dozen boards in nine of his last 11 contests. He went for 36 points and 14 rebounds against Vanderbilt in a 90-82 victory last weekend, while Keith Hornsby knocked down four 3-pointers en route to 23 points in a complementary effort. Hornsby is a 45.2 percent 3-point shooter and shoots above 50 percent from the floor (50.8), as does Simmons (57.4) and third-leading scorer Craig Victor II (56.9).
* Over is 5-0 in the last five meetings.
* Wildcats are 1-5 ATS in the last six meetings.
* Wildcats are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 games overall.
* Under is 5-1 in Tigers last six home games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Sixty-one percent of Covers users are backing the visiting Wildcats.