The #8 seed Kentucky Wildcats take on the #2 seed Michigan Wolverines on Sunday in the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional Finals. The game will take place at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana with the opening tip coming at 5:00 PM ET. According to NCAA basketball betting odds Kentucky is a 1.5 point favorite and the posted total is 139.0.
It doesn't seem that long ago that the Kentucky Wildcats were being mentioned as a bubble team in regards to the NCAA Tournament. Now they find themselves just one win away from their 2nd "Final Four" appearance in the last 3 years. The Wildcats are coming off a stirring come from behind win on Friday evening over their fierce in state rival the Louisville Cardinals. Kentucky was able to overcome 13-point 1st half deficit on their way to a 5-point win. The Wildcats are now winners of 5 of their last 6 overall, with their only loss coming by just 1-point in the SEC Tournament title game versus Florida, who is by the way the top ranked team in the country. This is an excellent rebounding team that is at a +10 per game differential in that category on the season. During their 3-games of the NCAA Tournament Kentucky is a cumulative +29 on the boards. One glaring concern entering this contest for Kentucky has been their defensive play in the last 2-games. The Wildcats allowed Wichita State and Louisville to shoot a combined 52% from the field. John Calipari is an excellent 13-5 ATS in postseason tournament games as the head coach of Kentucky.
Looking for a Return
Trip to the "Final Four"
The Michigan Wolverines will enter this regional final with an opportunity to reach the "Final Four" of the NCAA Tournament for the 2nd consecutive season. Last season they advanced all the way to the national championship game before falling in a hard fought close battle at the hands of the Louisville Cardinals. The Wolverines advanced with a 2-point win over the #11 seed Tennessee Volunteers on Friday evening. The win certainly didn't come without some extremely anxious moments. The Wolverines had to withstand a furious Tennessee rally that saw them come from 15 down with a little over 10-minutes to play, and 8 down with less than 2-minutes to go. The old adage at this time of the year is "survive and advance". The final moments of their "Sweet 16" win for the Wolverines exemplified that saying to the nth degree. The Wolverines are an excellent perimeter shooting team, which can be found evident by their 40% efficiency rate from beyond the three-point line on the season. They also excel at the free throw line converting on a stellar 76% of their attempts on the year.
It's very odd to see a seeding gap this large in which the lower seed is the favorite, and especially in a regional final. The argument can be made for Kentucky that they're playing the best basketball of the season right now, and you would be hard pressed to make a case against that claim. However, they're coming off emotional upset wins over a Wichita State team who was 35-0 at the time and the #1 seed in the region, in addition to their long time hated rival the Louisville Cardinals. According to NCAA basketball betting odds Louisville was the favorite to win the Midwest Region before the tournament began. It's difficult to characterize a team as having a potential mental letdown in a game of this magnitude, but it would also be hard to imagine the Wildcats can match the intensity level they've shown in those prior two wins. Michigan will be out to atone for what was almost a monumental collapse in their "Sweet 16" win over Tennessee, and is bound to have a chip on their shoulders after being installed as an underdog in this contest.
Free Pick: Michigan +1.5 over Kentucky