NCAA Basketball Picks: Kentucky vs. Mississippi State

Darin Zank

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 1:52 PM GMT

When it comes to Kentucky, 27 and 0 are not the numbers that really matter; it's the 14-13 record against the spread, the +22 scoring margin and the 18.5 points the Wildcats are favored by for tonight's game in Starkville.

'Cats-'Dogs Betting Odds
Most of the NCAA Basketball odds market opened this game with Kentucky favored by 18.5 points, and that spread was holding steady in the early betting.

Those who believe in minor miracles could get Mississippi State at +2045 on the moneyline at Heritage.

 

'Cats-'Dogs: Background
Kentucky is a perfect 27-0 this season, after disposing of Auburn Saturday 110-75. The Wildcats grabbed a 23-2 lead and never let the Tigers back in the game. Actually, Kentucky only led by 21 with about 14 minutes to go, but secured the cover at -25 with a spurt that ran that lead to 34, and later 38.

The Wildcats shot a hot 65 percent from the floor Saturday, and out-rebounded Auburn 44-22.

Eight days ago Kentucky beat Tennessee 66-48, covering at -13 on the road, and just before that it blew out South Carolina 77-43, covering at -18 at home.

So after losing five games in a row ATS the Wildcats have now covered three in a row.

At this point UK is an almost overwhelming favorite to win the national championship. As of early this week Bovada was offering Kentucky at 1/1 to win the title; next up on that board was Duke and Wisconsin, both at 9/1.

Mississippi State, meanwhile, got to 4-5 in SEC play a few weeks ago with back-to-back upsets of LSU and Tennessee, but has taken a step back, losing four of its last five games, after falling Saturday at home to Arkansas 65-61. But the Bulldogs hung on for the cover as seven-point home dogs.

MSU led that game by five with about 10 minutes left, but let it slip away. On the day the Bulldogs shot just 42 percent from the field and committed 22 turnovers, although they did out-rebound the Hogs 42-31.

Just before that Mississippi State lost at home to Ole Miss 71-65; just before that the Bulldogs picked up an SEC road victory at Missouri; and just before that they lost at home to Alabama 55-51. On the season MSU has lost eight games by six points or less, which is part of the reason it's 8-4 ATS over its last dozen games.

At 12-15 overall, 5-9 in SEC play the Bulldogs need three more wins to top last season's total of 14, and they've already won two more conference games than they did last year.

Kentucky has won the last seven games in this series, but Mississippi State has covered the spread in four of those games, keeping things relatively close as betting underdogs. This will be the first meeting between the teams this season.

Check out another top-value NCAA Basketball Pick: Washington/UCLA

By the Numbers
Kentucky is shooting 47 percent from the floor this season, and ranks No. 1 in the nation in FG defense, holding foes to just 34 percent shooting.

Mississippi State is shooting 43 percent from the floor, just 31 percent from 3-point range but holding opponents to 41 percent FG shooting.

 

'Cats-'Dogs Betting Trends
Kentucky has trended UNDER this season by a 17-10 margin, as Wildcats games have averaged 127 points.

Mississippi State is 10-11 on the totals, as Bulldogs games have averaged 125 points.

 

'Cats-'Dogs Free Pick
We're almost tempted to take the home dog for our NCAA Basketball Pick in this spot, because MSU has played in some tough luck this season, losing several close games. But the Bulldogs haven't played Kentucky. This is a spot where we like the visiting favorite, at a spread that's probably half a dozen points kinder than if this game were being played somewhere else.

Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Kentucky -18.5 at 5Dimes

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