Home Court Advantage & Stronger Offense Make Arkansas Our NCAA Basketball Pick Over Kentucky

Doug Upstone

Thursday, January 21, 2016 3:35 PM UTC

Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016 3:35 PM UTC

We are basically one-third of the way through the SEC basketball regular season, and Kentucky visits Arkansas tonight. Don't miss our best NCAA basketball picks for the game.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Arkansas +2.5
Best Line Offered: at Bookmaker


Facebook and Twitter never mentioned anything about hell freezing over and if it did, I did not get any updates on my new Periscope account. What the heck is goin' on? Well, I checked out the standings and its true, the Wildcats are 3-2 (2-3 ATS) in SEC play, but fortunately have not heard about any deaths reported in Big Blue Nation of people not being able to cope with present "critical" dilemma.

It does not get any easier for tonight's game at Arkansas on ESPN at 7:00 EST, before over 19,000 at Bud Walton Arena.


Not Every Kentucky Recruiting Class is NBA Ready
Kentucky is 13-4 and while it seems like the sky is falling in the Commonwealth, it is not. John Calipari still has very good players who do not have the mental capacity at this time to dominate in all facets of the game. Chances are, there a few good NBA players on this Wildcats squad, but they will have to be developed, which is seen by the fact they are 6-11 ATS and their margin of victory is only +9.8 points, far below Calipari standards at Kentucky.

An inkling about the lack of maturity and possible fragile psyche of this team is you have not heard Coach Cal really praise or criticize this group, which is unusual for him. There is plenty to like about leading scorer Jamal Murray (17.8 points per game) and Isaiah Briscoe (10.7). Point guard Tyler Ulis needs to be more of a facilitator and less a shot-taker, converting on just 39.1 percent from the field and miserable 28% from behind the arc. Kentucky is not receiving quality efforts nightly either from main frontcourt players like Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee and Skal Labissiere.


Arkansas Improving & Tough at Home
The Razorbacks are only 9-8 on the season (8-5 ATS), having to learn out how to play without departed stars Michael Qualls and Bobby Portis. Nevertheless, we are starting to see signs of this team turn around and while they probably will not win a conference title, they will be a factor.

Offensively, Arkansas is doing an awful lot right, leading the SEC in points per game (83.8), 3-point percentage (44.7, which is 3rd nationally) and turnover margin (plus-3.6). With the trio of Anthlon Bell (17.1 PPG), Moses Kingsley (16.9) and Dusty Hannahs (16.0), Arkansas is one of five teams in the country with three players averaging 15 or more points per game. Plus, point guard Jabril Durham leads the league in assists (7.2 per game) and the junior Kingsley has really come on and is the SEC’s leading shot blocker and second-leading rebounder.


What Bettors Need to Know
Though Kentucky has won and covered the last two meetings, Calipari is 0-3 SU and ATS in Fayetteville as Kentucky's coach. This Wildcats crew is 1-3 SU and ATS in true road contests, losing 4.3 PPG and is just 4-6 against NCAA basketball odds after failing to cover the spread like what happened at Auburn.

Since coach Mike Anderson has been at Arkansas since 2011, he has continued the tradition of making Walton Arena one of the toughest stops in the country at 75-9 SU. This year has been no different at 8-1 (4-1 ATS), winning by 16.7 PPG. Having lost be two at LSU in last outing, the Razorbacks are 48-26 ATS at home off a road loss the last 19 seasons.


What to Expect & Spread Winner
After opening as a one point favorite, Kentucky was at -2.5 by Thursday morning with a total of 152. Motivation will certainly not be an issue for either team coming off a loss. The more important aspect of this fierce battle will be the offense, as neither defense is exceptional, with Kentucky holding opponents to 41% shooting and ranked 57th in defensive efficiency in the country and Arkansas is at 43.7% and 148th in DE.

With this the case, the Hogs are at home, more consistent on offense and have the belief they can win the game. For NCAA basketball picks, the Razorbacks get my recommendation and they are 7-0 ATS after a loss by three points or less in the past three seasons.

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