Kentucky and its Massive Fan Base Advance to Sweet 16 With Win and Cover

Doug Upstone

Friday, March 16, 2018 3:48 PM UTC

Friday, Mar. 16, 2018 3:48 PM UTC

The first game in the South Region on Saturday will feature No. 5 Kentucky vs. upset-minded and MAC champion Buffalo from Boise. This contest is scheduled for a 5:15 EDT start and will be on CBS.

5) Kentucky vs. (13) BuffaloSouth Region, Friday, 5:15 PM ET Free Basketball Pick: KentuckyBest Line Offered: Bookmaker

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Kentucky won a hard fought affair with Davidson 78-73, barely covering the odds that closed with them as 4.5-point favorites. No. 13 Buffalo sent Arizona and the Pac-12 packing, as the Bulls ambushed the Wildcats 89-68 as nine-point underdogs, making it the first time a major conference did not have a team in the Round of 32 in 21 years.

Those making college basketball picks will have to decide if Kentucky at -5.5 sounds right or if backing the Buffalo makes more sense.

Kentucky Will Need More Offensive Balance To Win and Cover

After making a total of 23 trey's in St. Louis to win the SEC conference tournament, the gods of statistical analysis decided to balance the books on Kentucky (25-10, 17-17-1 ATS). For the season, the Wildcats only average five made three's a game and connect on 35.6 percent. In the Davidson victory, Kentucky only took six deep shots and made ZERO. That's right, the Wildcats never made a long shot, ending a nation-best streak of 1,047 games with a 3 that began Nov. 26, 1988.

But by going inside, John Calipari's club spent a lot of time at the free throw line where they made 26 of 32 and won the game that way. The formula will probably be similar against Buffalo, where Kentucky can use their size advantage and use the dribble drive effectively against the small Bulls. If Kevin Knox shoots like normal and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has typical floor game (19 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and five steals vs. Davidson), Big Blue nation should be pleased.

Buffalo Has To Create Scoring and Game Pressure to Pull Off Another Upset

While some might debate the mental toughness of Arizona after Buffalo (27-8, 17-13-2 ATS) bamboozled the Wildcats, the Bulls took the game to Arizona. Buffalo plays at a NASCAR pace and when they get an opponent a little weary because the automatic TV timeout is running a little late, that is when a Bulls stampede can happen and they go on a 10-0 run in 58 seconds.

Buffalo most likely is not going to connect on 15 of 30 three's like they did Thursday night, but if they just make their average of 10 and force double-digit turnovers, they will stay in this contest and keep the pressure on the favored 'Cats.

Kentucky's Size and Defense Too Much for Buffalo

While I would enjoy seeing another Buffalo upset, Kentucky has faced Auburn, Ole Miss and others that like to play fast, which will help them. Being on an 8-1 SU and ATS streak, the Wildcats defense has gotten even better in holding teams under 40 percent and we have seen Coach Cal always demanding coming out on three-point shooters with their length, while still having rim protectors.

Expect a good, fun contest, but it will be the Wildcats by 8.

Check out SBR’s college basketball odds page for updated lines. Also, head over to the March Madness Betting Headquarters for vital handicapping information, picks, and a list of the best sports books and live betting options for the tournament season.

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