NCAA Basketball Picks: Lay The Points On Home Faves Kentucky As They Host Georgia

Jay Pryce

Tuesday, February 9, 2016 1:26 PM UTC

Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016 1:26 PM UTC

Get our NCAA basketball picks for the night as No. 20 Kentucky starts to flash a little bit of consistency at home, and their talent may overwhelm a less-than-prolfic Georgia offense.

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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Kentucky -11½
Best Line Offered: at Pinnacle


Georgia Bulldogs (13-8 SU, 12-9 ATS)
The Bulldogs, 6-4 in SEC play, find themselves just one game back of a three-way tie for second place in conference behind Kentucky, Texas A&M, and South Carolina. They pulled out an ugly 65-55 win against Auburn on Saturday, shooting just 35.1 percent from the floor.

Georgia, in fact, is not very efficient on offense. Its 103.1 points per possession ranks 173rd nationally. Junior guard J.J. Frazier is the team’s leading scorer with 16.3 points per game. He’s at his best attacking the rim in coach Mark Fox’s modified triangle offense. The set helps UGA draw a whopping 21.3 fouls per game, and could be a weapon used to knock Kentucky's top talent out of the game.

Second-leading scorer, sophomore forward Yante Maten (15.6 ppg), the most skilled player in the lineup, has picked up his game immensely since his freshman campaign in which he put in 5.0 points in 18.2 minutes. He could be in for a big night against a Kentucky frontcourt that lacks an identity and true leader. Maten has dropped 18 or more in every road game this season outside of the team’s 89-85 loss to LSU, where he got into foul trouble early against budding superstar Ben Simmons.

Georgia’s strength is on defense. Its 94.0 points per 100 possessions is the 21st most efficient in the nation. Fox’s team is deep, and he can rotate players in and out to stay fresh and competitive. In the Auburn game, 13 different players saw action, and nine players clock in with 10 minutes or more a night on the season. The rotation helps Georgia maintain the nation’s fifth best opponent shooting percentage at low 37.6 percent.


Kentucky Wildcats (17-6 SU, 10-13 ATS)
Oddsmakers overvalued the young Wildcats to begin the year, going 2-7 ATS through their first nine games. Since, coach John Calipari’s squad is 8-5 versus the number, as the team, chock-full of underclassmen, improves with experience.

Kentucky still has many flaws: it stinks at defending the three-point line, is guilty of taking some poor shots, and has very little presence down low. Guards Jamal Murray (18.3 ppg, 34.4 mpg) and Tyler Ulis (16.3 ppg, 36.5 mpg), who lead the team in points and minutes per game respectively, is the one area of stability.

Marred by inconsistent play all season, Calipari’s youngsters are beginning to find their groove at Rupp Arena, particularly since conference play tipped off. In five home games against SEC opponents, they are 5-0 SU, 4-1 ATS with a 20.0 point average margin of victory. In this stretch, Kentucky is 7.8 points better than the number a night.

Although the Bulldogs are one of the best at protecting the floor, most of their success comes against poorer shooting teams. Kentucky enters the game sinking 47.3 percent of their shots, the 35th best rate in the land. In eight games where Georgia tipped off against foes shooting 46.5 or better from the field, it allows 73.1 points on 40.8 from the field. Versus less, it gives up 62.0 points on 34.7 percent shooting.


Final Analysis
Since taking over the Bulldogs in 2009, Mark Fox has never been able to pull the mega-prospects like Kentucky. However, he is one of the best at getting the most out of what he has as far as player development is concerned. Still, the talent gap may be too wide in this one. Since 2009, Georgia averages just 57.8 points a game in Rupp under Fox, shooting a dismal 39.1 percent from the floor. We'll lay the points with Kentucky. Early money suggests the line will move down with money coming in on UGA, so we'll be patient and wait for a better number. Some books are dangling -11.5 points in their NCAA basketball odds boards as of publication, so we'll make that the official play for Tuesday night.

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