Can the Kentucky Wildcats continue their undefeated season Tuesday night in Knoxville? Join us for a preview and free college basketball pick for Kentucky's clash with Tennessee.
We're a little less than a month from Selection Sunday, and about the only thing we know right now is one of the No. 1 seeds -- probably the first one -- is going to the Kentucky Wildcats. Well, I guess that's really more of an assumption at this point than hard fact since the Wildcats could lose their final six games on the schedule, though the chances of that happening are far more remote than Kentucky completing an undefeated regular season.
Next on the list of teams with an opportunity to prevent that from happening are the Tennessee Volunteers. Kentucky's trip to Knoxville will be carried live by ESPN beginning at 7 PM (ET), the Wildcats favored by 14½.
NCAA basketball odds have yet to find a total for the game, and we're dealing with two teams that have been good 'under' winners with the 'Cats 9-16 O/U while the Vols check in 9-15 O/U.
Tennessee and Kentucky met at least twice per season from 1953-2013, but this marks the second consecutive year they only have one scheduled matchup. The Wildcats lead the series by a sizable 150-67 margin after beating the Volunteers last year at home, 74-66, just missing the cover as 8½ point favorites.
They missed the cover by a much wider margin the last time they set foot in Thomson-Boling Arena almost exactly two years ago. In fact, Kentucky never even came close to the outright victory in the 88-58 thrashing Tennessee threw down. The Vols dominated on the inside, only taking five 3-point shots all game (and sinking each one), en route to their most lopsided decision ever vs. UK.
'Cats Crush 'Cocks To Stop 5-Game ATS Slide
You can't win your first 25 games of the season without some impressive performances, and Kentucky (25-0 straight up, 12-13 against the spread) is certainly coming off such a game this past weekend vs. South Carolina. John Calipari's outfit smothered the Gamecocks outside and wouldn't let them inside to run away with a 77-43 decision.
South Carolina's best weapon turned out to be the free-throw line where the Gamecocks shot 14-of-17. Kentucky has by far the best defense in the Southeastern Conference, holding league foes to just over 56 PPG, and the perimeter defense is also tops in the circuit limiting opponents to under 27% from 3-point range.
The blowout was Kentucky's first spread winner since late-January, a string of five games, all of which went 'over' the marks. The Wildcats are 2-4 ATS on the SEC road.
Vols Defense Showing Cracks In Dropping 3 Of 4
Tennessee (14-10 SU, 8-15-1 ATS) is fourth in the SEC giving up 63.1 points per game, but Donnie Tyndall's defense has been exposed a bit in the last four games. Mississippi State, Georgia, Vanderbilt and LSU combined to shoot nearly 53%, three of those four games going into the Volunteers' loss column.
Another problem for Tyndall has been an offense averaging 62.0 PPG in SEC tilts, 11th in the SEC and roughly nine fewer per game than Kentucky despite playing about the same paces. Tennessee is a pretty good rebounding team on the offensive end, but will have to make those second chances count...assuming they get any at all against this talented Kentucky frontcourt.
If the Wildcats play like they did last weekend, they can cover 30 point spreads with ease. But for this one, I'm taking the points and the Volunteers at home for my free college basketball pick.
NCAA Basketball Pick: Tennessee +14.5 at 5Dimes
Season: 46-40-1 (+2.0)