Kentucky, Miami The Play In Ranked Action Saturday

Jay Pryce

Saturday, January 13, 2018 1:07 PM UTC

Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 1:07 PM UTC

Ranked action highlights are best college basketball bets Saturday afternoon. Check in here for picks, previews, and predictions for No. 18 Miami (FL) at No. 19 Clemson and No. 21 Kentucky at Vanderbilt.

No. 18 Miami (FL) at No. 19 Clemson (-5)

This is the first meeting ever both No. 18 Miami (13-2 SU, 7-3 ATS) and No.19 Clemson (14-2 SU, 8-5 ATS) are each ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll. Since Jim Larranaga took over as coach, the Hurricanes are 5-2 SU and 2-4-1 ATS head to head. The Tigers tipped off favorites in just one other clash, winning a defensive struggle 58-54 as 4-point chalk in March 2014.

Defense is the feature again among both teams, each ranking in the top 11 programs nationally in adjusted efficiencies according to KenPom. Miami (5) allows 90.0 points and Clemson (11) 92.3 per 100 possessions. The top-ranked Virginia Cavaliers is the only ACC school ahead of both. Expect a battle. Larranaga does:

.@CanesHoops is preparing for a battle with @ClemsonMBB.

— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) January 12, 2018

The Canes unit is a bit better overall, ranking in the top five in the country in scoring defense (59.9 ppg), opponent effective field-goal rate (41.3 percent) and 3-point defense (26.5 percent). The team is also more talented and has better big game experience. Larranaga returns 10 starters from a 2017 tournament squad and fields six ESPN top-100 recruits on the roster. The Tigers are improved with a new emphasis on defense this season, but they are punching above their weight. Look for Clemson to slowly slide down the ACC standings as conference play barrels forward.

Larranaga is 9-13 SU and 16-4-2 ATS as a single-digit road underdog against conference opponents with Miami, losing just four by more than five points. Expect the Canes to push this to the wire and potentially win outright. Take the 5 points on the NCAAB odds boards for value and sprinkle a little on the money line with Miami. Canes eke out a 67-66 win at the buzzer.

Free picks: Miami +5
Best Lines are at 5Dimes (-102)

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No. 21 Kentucky (-3) at Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt (6-10 SU, 3-7 ATS) has played the 11th toughest schedule in the nation, facing off against seven ranked opponents. They are 1-6 SU and ATS in these games, failing to cover a 5.1 average line by 4.7 points per game. The defense, which ranks 127 in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings, can’t slow down these good teams from scoring. It surrenders 79.6 points per game on 47.6 percent shooting. All but two opponents (Arizona State, Florida) shot greater than 45.0 percent from the floor.

Kentucky (13-3 SU, 7-9 ATS) is just 5-3 SU and 3-4-1 ATS in eight contests with a single-digit line in 2017. They’ve won three of four versus unranked opponents in this spot, the lone loss an 83-75 neutral-court slip-up to fellow blue blood UCLA.

Vandy doesn’t have near the talent the Bruins own and will be forced out of their strengths in this matchup. Head coach Bryce Drew excels at post trapping on defense, but will likely matchup in a zone to slow the more athletic Wildcats. The Commodores like to spread the court extra wide on offense, but don’t have the 3-point shooters to take advantage of looks behind the arc. The spacing, again, will be a boon for the faster, longer Cats.

College basketball bettors have seen this set up before. John Calipari’s new crop of one-and-dones slowly improves as the season wears on, gaining valuable experience beating up on SEC foes before making a splash in the NCAA Tournament. Kentucky has won 82.1 percent (110-24) of conference matchups versus unranked conference opponents under the legendary coach. We expect another here. Lay the 3 points with the Cats for your NCAAB picks.

Free Picks: Wildcats -3
Best Lines are at Heritage (-105)

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