NCAA Basketball Picks: Kentucky Will Rout Tennessee In Payback Game

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, February 17, 2016 10:10 PM UTC

Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016 10:10 PM UTC

Don't look now, but we are getting closer to March and Kentucky, as is usually the case under Coach John Calipari, appears to be peaking. The No. 14 Wildcats host Tennessee on Thursday as 17-point favorites on BetOnline's NCAA Basketball odds.

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NCAA Basketball Pick: Kentucky -17
Best Line Offered: at BetOnline


Vols Are Doormats On Road
Barring a very unlikely run to the SEC Tournament title, Tennessee (12-13, 5-7 SEC) is going to miss the NCAA Tournament for a second straight year; this is Coach Rick Barnes' first season in Knoxville. Now the goal would be finishing with an overall winning record and one of those lesser postseason tournaments like the NIT or CIT.

At home, the Vols are pretty dangerous. But away from there, UT is just 1-11 including neutral-site games (victory was Jan. 16 at Mississippi State). Tennessee lost at the SEC's worst team, Missouri, 75-64 on Saturday. The Volunteers shot just 38.2 percent from the field while allowing the Tigers to hit 54.5 percent of theirs, Missouri's second-best effort of the season. Mizzou entered on a nine-game losing streak.

"We don't have enough guys consistently playing at the level we need to play at, whether at home or on the road," Barnes said to reporters after the latest loss. "It goes back to consistency. Maturity has a little bit to do with it."

Kevin Punter led UT in scoring as he usually does with 21 points. His 886 career points are the most in school history among two-year players. He transferred in before last season from State Fair Community College in Missouri. Punter is second in the SEC in scoring at 22.3 points per game.

Tennessee is 12-11-1 against the spread on NCAA Basketball odds this season and 3-6 ATS on the road.


Wildcats Control Own SEC Destiny
Kentucky (19-6, 9-3 SEC) was the heavy favorite to repeat as SEC regular-season champion and the Cats  now control their destiny in that regard. They were tied atop the conference  entering Wednesday with LSU. The Tigers hosted Alabama on Wednesday. Kentucky hosts LSU to close the regular season.

The Wildcats won a third straight game in blowout fashion on Saturday, 89-62 at a pretty good South Carolina team. They did so mostly without Coach John Calipari, who was ejected with less than three minutes going in the game after getting back-to-back technicals. I tend to think that was planned because UK has been inconsistent on the road. Point guard Tyler Ulis, a candidate for SEC Player of the Year, had career  highs of 26 points and 12 assists with just one turnover. Rather amazingly, he is the first player in school history with two 20-point, 10-assist games in  a season. While LSU's Ben Simmons will win SEC Freshman of the Year honors (and quite possibly SEC Player of the Year), UK guard Jamal Murray should be second. He had 26 points vs. USC, his 10th game this season with at least 20. Murray is averaging 18.8 points and is a lock lottery pick if he declares for the 2016 NBA Draft.

UK has now beaten its past three opponents by an average of 26.7 points. Those three foes shot just a combined 31.6 percent from the field and 29.5 percent from long range. The Cats are 12-13 ATS on NCAA Basketball picks this season and 8-6 ATS at home.


First Meeting
If Kentucky goes on to win the SEC regular-season title and to bigger things, perhaps it will look back on an 84-77 upset loss in Knoxville on Feb. 2 as the changing point of the season. The Cats blew a 21-point first-half lead  -- Tennessee scored 71 points over the final 25 minutes, 32 seconds. The score was tied at 70 when Robert Hubbs III made a free throw with 5:04 left to start a 7-0 run that put UT ahead for good. The Vols were a stellar 30-of-34 from the free throw line overall. It was the largest comeback win for Tennessee this decade. Punter led the Vols with 27 points. Armani Moore added 18 points and 13 rebounds. Ulis had 20 points and five assists for the Cats. Murray had 21 points, five assists and five rebound; Murray and Ulis were only a combined 10-for-30 from the field, though. UK got four points from its bench. No school has beaten Kentucky more than Tennessee (68 times). The Vols have gotten 18 of those when unranked vs. a ranked UK team. Kentucky is 88-16 all-time when facing the Volunteers in Lexington.

Tennessee hasn't beaten Kentucky twice in one season since in 17  years. It's not happening here. Give the points in this game. UT is 0-4 ATS in its past four road games. Kentucky is 4-0 ATS in its past four at home. UK is 7-2 ATS in the past nine meetings at home.

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