Illinois St. vs. Kentucky: Easy Wildcats Win as the Sharp NCAA Basketball Pick

Willie Bee

Monday, November 30, 2015 12:53 PM UTC

Monday, Nov. 30, 2015 12:53 PM UTC

Kentucky could be without Tyler Ulis on Monday when the Wildcats host Illinois State. They're still expected to beat up on the Redbirds as 20 point chalk on the NCAA basketball odds.

They started last week by playing No. 2 and undefeated Maryland in the opening round of the Cancun Challenge. This week, the Illinois State Redbirds get things rolling by traveling to Lexington where the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats await them.

With students back from their Thanksgiving break, Rupp Arena should be packed for the expected blowout that tips a little after 7 PM (ET). Kentucky opened the college basketball betting proceedings as 18 point chalk, that spread now up to 20 at most shops with some boosting it to 20½. SBR's live NCAA basketball odds page is showing 141 for tonight's total, evenly priced between the 'over' and the 'under.'

Monday's matchup marks the first time the Wildcats and Redbirds have met on the hardwood. Illinois State does have some experience against Southeastern Conference schools, and most of it has been successful with the 'Birds winning eight of nine clashes. This will be the only time Kentucky faces a team from the Missouri Valley Conference this season, and first time the Wildcats have taken on an MVC squad since beating Midwest Region top seed Wichita State to advance to the Sweet 16 of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.


Ulis Day-To-Day With Elbow Injury
John Calipari and Kentucky (6-0 straight up, 2-4 against the spread) spent the holiday down in Florida at the HoopHall Miami Invitational. The only action the Wildcats saw was Friday against South Florida, a relatively easy 84-63 win for UK. It was the third consecutive game Kentucky closed as a favorite of more than 20 points, and third contest in a row Wildcats backers were left with losing tickets as the 21-point final margin fell just short of the 22 point spread.

The only bad news to come from the trip was starting guard Tyler Ulis missing all of the second half due to a hyperextended elbow, an injury he suffered diving for a loose ball. The sophomore is officially listed as questionable, though Calipari said it was not serious and he fully expected Ulis to suit up.

Ulis is averaging 13.2 points per game, third on the team, and stuffing his boxscore a team-leading 4.3 assists along with 3.8 rebounds a contest. In his absence, Isaiah Briscoe shifted to point with Charles Matthews and Dominique Hawkins picking up Ulis' minutes. If Ulis can't play tonight, expect Hawkins to get the start.

This will be Kentucky's fifth home game of the season to go with two neutral-site contests. The Wildcats will finally experience life in a hostile gym this Thursday when they travel to Los Angeles to battle the UCLA Bruins.


Turnovers Costing Redbirds & Their Backers
A preseason pick to contend for an at-large bid in this season's NCAA Tournament, Illinois State (3-4 SU, 1-4 ATS) has gotten off to a rather rocky start thanks in part to a tough slate. The Redbirds opened the year with a road loss at San Diego State, then dropped two more at the Cancun Challenge.

In the matchup with Maryland, ISU held its own and even held a 5-point lead with seven minutes to go. But the Terrapins finally got it in gear to pull away late, though the 77-66 final was not enough to cover the 13 point spread. Dan Muller's squad committed 17 turnovers in the game, and that has been a problem in the early going. The Redbirds rank in the bottom quarter of the country giving the ball away 14.7 times a contest.

Illinois State might also be feeling the effects of traveling coast-to-coast and out of the country. This will be the fourth game in six days for the Redbirds, the first two of those taking place in Mexico, and they didn't show much at home in Friday's 73-63 victory over Quincy, an unlined affair. Even without Ulis, I'm liking Kentucky enough to lay the points for my free NCAA basketball pick.

NCAA Basketball Pick: Kentucky -20 at Pinnacle

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