Willie’s NCAAB season picks record: 38-27-2 (+9.60 units)
Saturday, 4:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Free NCAAB Pick: Kentucky ATS
Best Line Offered: BetOnline
After coming up just short in Tuscaloosa a couple of weeks ago, John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats hope for better results from their second trip into the State of Alabama this month. Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Tigers have much different hopes for the big SEC collision on Saturday, of course.
While we can’t dismiss the nice starts to conference play by South Carolina and LSU have gotten off to, we also aren’t taking the Gamecocks and Tigers too seriously…yet. Conventional wisdom this time around is the road to the SEC title goes through Knoxville and the Tennessee Volunteers. Kentucky sits a game behind the Vols in that race with Auburn 1½ back, giving the winner of this battle a little extra breathing room in the league race.
UK Begins 3-Game Stretch Against Ranked Foes
Calipari’s crew arrives in Auburn off one of their better performances of the campaign, a 69-49 rout at Georgia as 7½-point favorites on the closing board at Bookmaker. The Wildcats didn’t shoot as well as they had in their previous six games, hitting just under 44% from the field, but they crashed the glass and harassed the Bulldogs on the defensive end. The cover stopped a 3-game skid at the window, and marked the fourth ‘under’ winner in Kentucky’s last six.
Pearl’s troops are coming off successive wins and covers, each time carrying the chalk line on the NCAA basketball odds card, and have used offense to win four of the last five while averaging more than 86 PPG in that stretch. In their home win over Georgia a week ago, the Tigers blistered the nets by sinking half of their 68 shots and going 12-of-25 from beyond the arc. Auburn is a perfect 9-0 at home, covering five of the eight contests to make the board.
Tigers Eye First 3-Game Home Win Streak Vs. UK Since 1974-76
That Auburn has taken two of the last three meetings is remarkable considering how dominant Kentucky has been in the rivalry. The Wildcats won 18-straight from 2001-14 and hold a huge 92-19 (.828) advantage in the series, and if the Tigers take Saturday’s skirmish, it will mark their first 2-game win streak over UK since 1988-89. The lone matchup last season came at Auburn Arena on Valentine’s Day, and found the Tigers favored for the first time in a long while. Auburn delivered a 76-66 decision to just eke out the -9½ cover, and the final fell well short of a 156½-point total.
Neither side has exhibited hard trends in the totals column this season, but the series definitely leans one direction with 15 of the last 21 meetings – 10 of the last 11 in Auburn – staying ‘under’ the marks. Neither side has exhibited a strong ATS return, either, but I’ll take the visitors and any points the books might give me with my free NCAA basketball pick.