Kentucky, Mississippi State Lay Points in SEC Hoops; Should You?

Jay Pryce

Tuesday, January 16, 2018 1:09 PM UTC

Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018 1:09 PM UTC

No. 18 Kentucky is a small road favorite at South Carolina, while Mississippi State is laying 4.5 points to Vanderbilt in Starkville in a pair of intriguing SEC matchups Tuesday night. Picks, predictions and previews this way.

Vanderbilt at Mississippi State (-4.5)

Vanderbilt (6-11 SU, 1-13 ATS) enters having played the seventh-toughest schedule in the country, according to KenPom. It has squared off with six ranked opponents, going 1-5 SU and 0-5-1 ATS, losing by 10.8 points per game. These types of blowouts will make teams look worse on paper than they really are. The Commodores will be competitive here. Mississippi State (13-4 SU, 3-9 ATS) ranks 282nd in strength of schedule and is just 5-15 SU in SEC play in the last calendar year.

Defense will be key for the Commodores. They are surprisingly porous in the paint, yielding a 63.8 opponent field-goal percentage at the rim (59.3 is average). Opponents pick up the weakness on tape and hammer the Commodores down low. Vandy sees foes shoot just 31.3 percent of the shots from behind the arc.

Good news for Vandy is that Mississippi State fields few threats down low. Two of the Bulldogs’ three scorers averaging double digits are guards. Quinndary Weatherspoon leads the team with 14.4 points per game, while Nick Weatherspoon drops 11.0 a night. Forward Aric Holman is the only real points-getter in the paint. The 6-foot-10 junior averages 11.8 points per game, but has yet to put up more than 11 in four SEC matchups thus far (7.8 ppg). Mississippi State struggles from the field and Vandy picks up a much-needed road victory. Take the points and place a little on the money line for some extra cash.

Free NCAAB Pick: Vanderbilt +4.5Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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No. 18 Kentucky (-2.5) at South Carolina

Even with just seven scholarship players, Kentucky is tough to beat under head coach John Calipari. That was the case Saturday when the Cats topped Vanderbilt 74-67 as 2-point chalk in Nashville. Starting point guard Quade Green missed his second game in a row with a back strain. Also out are Tai Wynyard (back), Jemarl Baker (knee) and 6-foot-9 McDonald’s All-American Jarred Vanderbilt — the latter yet to hit the court this season with a left foot injury. Vanderbilt is close to his debut, and Green a game-time decision tonight. It hardly matters. Even the second-team personnel on scholarship are typically better recruits than their conference opponents starters. Check out the first three minutes of South Carolina head coach Frank Martin's Kentucky pre-game conference to see what he thinks about Calipari's injuries:

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The Cats win 66.7 percent (42-21 SU) of the time on the road against unranked SEC opponents under Calipari, tipping off -6.4 favorites on average. They have been ranked in each contest. Where the program is most dangerous is when sitting deeper in the polls. This typically signals Calipari’s men are injured or underachieving, primed to turn the corner as they make a run for the NCAA Tournament. This has been then case with most of Kentucky’s one-and-done crops in recent years.

In nearly one-third of the contests under these conditions, the Cats have sat No. 8 or higher in the AP Top 25 Poll. They are 17-5 SU, winning by 3 points or more in 16 of the 22 contests. The record dips to 25-16 SU sporting a more impressive ranking, likely overvalued in the market. The Cats are undefeated (13-0 SU) when ranked No. 10 or higher.

Lay the 2.5 points here with Kentucky. The Gamecocks are inexperienced and need time to grow in Martin’s system. The are just 6-6 SU in games with a single-digit line on the college basketball oddsboard. This inconsistency will not cut it against the Cats. South Carolina keeps it close, but comes up short of the number late.

Free NCAAB Pick: Kentucky -2.5Best Line Offered: 5Dimes

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