Our expert handicapper explores the WVU Mountaineers vs. undefeated Kentucky Sweet 16 matchup. Join us in this betting preview for an insight on this game before placing your NCAA tournament picks.
WVU vs. Kentucky (-13-) 9:45 ET CBS
?At 9:45 ET on Thursday, the WVU Mountaineers will square off with top-ranked and undefeated Kentucky in a Sweet 16 matchup. The game will be played at the neutral site of the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Currently Kentucky is listed on the NCAA Tournament odds as double digit favorites.
All the media hype for the last 6 weeks has focused on the undefeated record of Kentucky. That mark has now ballooned to 36-0 SU, after last week’s NCAA victories by a count of 79-56 vs. outmanned Hampton and 64-51 over Cincinnati. Neither of those, however, were pointspread victories. Following a 5-0 ATS neutral court mark (including Kansas, UCLA, Florida and Arkansas), it appears the number has finally caught up to the Wildcats. Credit goes to 6th year HC John Calipari with keeping the team as humble as they can possibly be. No question, this tall, athletic, deep team is the best in the land. The defensive numbers are outstanding with an average allowance of just 54 PPG on 36% shooting and 27% from behind the arc. Kentucky has a +7.5 rebound margin, a 14.7/10.6 assist/TO ratio and a 14.1/10.6 net TO margin. If the Wildcats have a weakness, it may well be in their ball-handling ability. Though they commit just 10.6 TOs per game, Booker and the Harrisons have not seen the same type of pressure in the SEC that they will face against this WVU team. That is where the style of play and coaching excellence of WVU comes into play.
There are few coaches in the land that are better suited to face the challenge of bringing down undefeated Kentucky than WVU’s 8th year HC, Bob Huggins. This year, Huggins may have the best team ever in Morgantown. Rotating 10 quality players, much like Kentucky, Huggins uses full-court pressure defense the entire game. Playing this style to near perfection, WVU forces over 19 TOs per contest. To date in this event, WVU has defeated Buffalo by 6 and Maryland by 10, allowing just 60.5 PPG. That runs the mark of WVU to 13-6 SU away from home, qualifying them as one of our Roadrunners. Remember that these Roadrunners, when installed as underdog to -5-, are a 66% ATS winner. WVU is also the nation’s top offensive rebounding team, a key element that will even out the disadvantage that most teams have when facing Kentucky. One of the biggest advantages for WVU is the return of their starting backcourt of Staten and Brown, who missed 3 games at the close of the regular season.
With just 4 games remaining and a potentially undefeated 40-0 SU season, the pressure has begun to build on Kentucky. The strengths of WVU match up well against the Wildcats, making this final considerably closer than the 13- point impost, so we'll back WVU with our NCAA tournament picks.
NCAA Tournament Pick: Take WVU at 5Dimes