NCAA Basketball Picks: Take Tennessee As Home Underdog vs. Overrated Kentucky

LT Profits Sports Group

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 4:49 PM UTC

Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016 4:49 PM UTC

Kentucky is not nearly as dominant this year as in recent seasons, while Tennessee is probably better than its record, so take the points with your NCAA basketball picks.


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Free NCAA Basketball Pick: Tennessee +8
Best Line Offered: at Bet365


One of the most prestigious programs in NCAA Basketball could be overvalued as a decided road favorite Tuesday night when those Kentucky Wildcats (16-5, 9-12 ATS), who are just 2-4 in true road games this season, pay a visit to the Tennessee Volunteers (10-11, 10-9-1 ATS), a dangerous team despite the record, at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, TN at 7:00 ET in a game televised nationally on ESPN.

The point spread at 5Dimes has Tennessee as a rather big home underdog for this contest with the current line at +8 on the NCAA Basketball odds board at odds of -103.


Wildcats No Longer Dominant
Kentucky enters this game ranked 20th in the AP Poll, which is a lesser ranking than we have become accustomed to for the Wildcats in recent seasons, but we feel that lower ranking is justified as this is no longer the dominant team that it has been. The Wildcats have already lost five games including road conference losses at LSU and Auburn, and they do not even lead the SEC, instead sitting one game behind the new conference kingpin this year in Texas A&M.

Tennessee meanwhile has been the losing NCAA Basketball pick in two straight games while blowing 14-point second-half leads on the road in both of them, first at Alabama in conference and then at TCU in the Big 12/SEC Challenge. They also blew a 13-point second-half lead here at home to first place Texas A&M a few weeks ago, so this team is not that far away under new coach Rick Barnes as the 10-11 record is a bit deceptive.

Remember that before those last two road meltdowns, the Volunteers did hand the South Carolina Gamecocks one of their two losses this season in their last home game here in Knoxville.


Lots of Minutes for Ulis
The Wildcats come off of a disappointing 90-84 overtime loss at seventh ranked Kansas in the Big 12/SEC Challenge in Lawrence on Saturday where the lack of depth for Kentucky became apparent. Kentucky’s best distributor Tyler Ulis played all 45 minutes in that contest, and while he scored a career-high 26 points while adding eight assists, fatigue may have played a factor in a crucial turnover at the end of regulation time.

The diminutive point guard has logged the most minutes in the SEC thus far this season with 36.8 per game, but Coach John Calipari may have no choice but to keep Ulis on the court until he drops with practically nothing behind him. And it is not just Ulis as four Kentucky starters played at least 37 minutes in that tough loss at one of the most brutal environments in the country for visiting teams.

Granted that was a non-conference game but it was also a statement game vs. one of the very best teams in the country, so even though the Wildcats are returning to SEC play here, the narrow loss and all the minutes logged by the starters could still have a lingering effect.

Remember also that even when the Wildcats do not have tired legs, this is one of the worst perimeter shooting Kentucky teams of the Calipari era as it ranks 272nd in the country in three-point shooting at 32.0 percent, and the Cats cannot be counted on to extend late leads at the foul line either as they are 275th in free throw shooting at 66.7 percent.


Can Tennessee Hold a Lead?
Tennessee followed a similar pattern the past two games, racing out to big leads with strong first halves only to see the offense stagnate in the second half. That was atypical of the Tennessee performance up until then as the Volunteers are still averaging a healthy 77.4 points per game, so perhaps returning home where the Volunteers are averaging 82.2 points may actually help then hold on to a lead with the offense showing up for the whole 40 minutes.

The former Texas Coach Barnes is trying to make his mark in Knoxville, and it appeared that the Vols were on the right track after the rather handy 78-69 win vs. South Carolina. They now have a chance to return to that form here as the offense should return to normal and the defense could sag inside basically daring Kentucky to make outside shots.

If the Wildcats suddenly start making those shots after showing no signs of improvement going 5-for-23 from beyond the three-point arc in Kansas, then so be it. We would not bet our money on that however, especially playing in enemy territory again.


Overvalued Cats as Usual?
Finally, Kentucky is a team that is often overvalued because of its reputation, as evidenced by the Wildcats going 2-6 ATS in their last eight road games and 1-4-2 ATS in their last seven games vs. teams with losing records. Meanwhile, Tennessee is 10-4-1 ATS in its last 15 games vs. teams with a winning percentage above .600 and 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games following an ATS loss.

Add this all up and Tennessee seems to be offering very good home underdog value at this seemingly inflated point spread hosting Kentucky on ESPN Tuesday.

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