Kentucky Has Never Lost 3 Straight Under Calipari & Won’t Tuesday

Matthew Jordan

Monday, January 22, 2018 8:47 PM UTC

Monday, Jan. 22, 2018 8:47 PM UTC

Here’s a first for this writer: Previewing a Kentucky basketball game with the Wildcats not ranked in the AP Top 25. Struggling UK hosts Mississippi State on Tuesday.

Mississippi Bulldogs at Kentucky WildcatsFree NCAAB Pick: KentuckyBest Line Offered: BetOnline

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It’s a 9 p.m. ET tipoff Tuesday from Rupp Arena as now unranked Kentucky welcomes Mississippi State in SEC action. It’s the only scheduled meeting this season between MSU and UK.

Last year, the Bulldogs and Wildcats played once and Kentucky won 88-81 in Starkville when it was ranked fifth in the country. De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk combined for 35 points – of course, they are both in the NBA now. Mississippi State was down 66-49 midway through the second half before scoring 13 straight points to make things interesting. Lamar Peters led the Bulldogs, who shot 54.2 percent from the field, with 25 points.

UK leads this all-time series 94-20 and is 47-5 in Lexington. The Cats have won the past 10 in the series and John Calipari is 11-0 in his career vs. Mississippi State. The home team is 5-1-1 against the spread in the past seven meetings. The Bulldogs last won at Rupp Arena in 2009.

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Growing Pains

Could Kentucky (14-5 SU, 4-3 SEC, 8-11 ATS) actually miss the NCAA Tournament? That’s a long shot, but the Wildcats, a preseason Top 5 team, fell out of the Associated Press Top 25 on Monday for the first time since March 2014 and are now +2500 to win it all at BetOnline. Kentucky lost at unranked South Carolina 76-68 last Tuesday and then home to unranked Florida (Gators are ranked now) 66-64 on Saturday. Kentucky’s 16-game home winning streak was snapped as was UK’s 30-game home winning streak against SEC foe.

It’s only the ninth time in Calipari’s nine seasons that Kentucky has lost back-to-back games. The Cats have never dropped three consecutive, and they have an average margin of victory of 14.9 points in the third game.

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Coach Cal: We’ve got another tough one, and this is a young team so we’re gonna see how they deal when adversity hits ... but like I said, I’m with them.

— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 22, 2018

Perhaps we shouldn’t have been surprised this team would have some issues as it’s Calipari’s youngest ever. In fact, it’s the least experienced team in the history of Ken Pomeroy’s experience rankings. UK’s six leading scorers are all freshmen. Kentucky ranks outside the Top 25 in KenPom's adjusted offensive and defensive national rankings. A Calipari-led UK team has finished outside the Top 25 in both categories only once: the 2012-13 season that ended with a first-round NIT loss to Robert Morris.

This could also be Calipari’s first team since Memphis in 2007 that didn’t have a player who was selected in the Top 10 of the subsequent NBA Draft. Freshman forward Kevin Knox was a highly touted recruit and is averaging 14.3 points and 5.6 rebounds, but he’s really thin and shooting just 29.8 percent from long range. Knox was held to nine points vs. Florida.

Mississippi State (14-5 SU, 2-4 SEC, 4-10 ATS) is currently ranked 66th in the RPI and has just one victory in eight games against the RPI Top 50: Over Arkansas on Jan. 2. The Bulldogs are 9-0 vs. sub-150 teams. They lost in Alabama on Saturday, 68-62. MSU did rally from a 20-point deficit but remains winless in true road games this season (also 0-4 ATS) and has lost 11 straight away from home overall. Mississippi State is a good defensive team as it leads the SEC allowed at 64.7 and in field-goal defense at 39.5 percent.

Were Kentucky playing a bit better team, I would take the points here. But the Bulldogs simply don’t know how to win on the road. UK has covered five of its past seven following an ATS loss. Cats are the NCAAB pick to win by around 10.

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