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Commodores Keep It Close At No. 18 Kentucky

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Commodores Keep It Close At No. 18 Kentucky

Willie’s NCAAB season picks record: 33-25-2 (+6.70 units)

Vanderbilt (9-5 SU, 5-9 ATS) at Kentucky (11-3 SU, 6-8 ATS)

Saturday, 8:30 p.m. ET

Free NCAAB Pick: Vanderbilt ATS

Best Line Offered:

All 14 SEC teams hit the floor Saturday, the day capped off by one of the oldest rivalries in the conference as the Vanderbilt Commodores trek a few hours northeast to Lexington to take on the Kentucky Wildcats.

Catching the contest means having a ticket inside Rupp Arena or access to the SEC Network for the evening tip. Ranked 18th by both the writers and coaches, and sitting 15th on Ken Pomeroy’s charts, the Wildcats are favored by a baker’s dozen with the total set around 150.

Vandy Shooting 36% In SEC Play

From the ‘What Might Have Been Department’ here at SBR, we can’t help but wonder where the Commodores would be in the polls if not for the season-ending ankle injury to Darius Garland. The prized recruit out of Nashville went down early in the sixth game on the slate and, including that match, Vanderbilt has gone 5-5 with Garland sidelined. Two of those losses for Bryce Drew’s bunch have come to begin SEC play, falling by 19 at Georgia on Wednesday in a contest Bookmaker closed the Commodores +1½. That was preceded by a setback at home to Ole Miss as a slight favorite, Vanderbilt shooting under 27% from 3-point range in the two league tilts.

It may have been a loss as 5-point chalk on the NCAA basketball odds, but I was impressed with the fight Kentucky showed last weekend in Alabama. The Wildcats responded with an 85-74 win over Texas A&M this week, but once again fell short of a rather lofty -14½ spread. Kentucky backers watched as the Aggies zipped out to a 10-0 lead, and while the Wildcats recovered and fought off a 2nd-half challenge by A&M, there just wasn’t enough to beat the spread. Defensive struggles on the perimeter have been an issue all season, opponents sinking nearly 40% from beyond the arc (312th nationally).

UK Seeking 5th-Straight Win Over Commodores

Just as it has done with every other SEC foe, Kentucky has dominated the rivalry with Vanderbilt, the most-played series in Wildcat annals. Winners of the last four matchups, UK is up 144-47 over the Commodores, taking 85 of the 100 contests played in Lexington. Vanderbilt’s last win at Rupp came 12 years ago, that streak almost ending last January when the ‘Dores pushed the ‘Cats to OT on this floor before falling, 83-81. It was Vanderbilt’s fourth cover in five meetings, and the ‘over’ snapped a 3-game run of ‘under’ winners in Lexington.

I’m not really sure where the points are going to come from for Vanderbilt, yet still believe the spread is a tad high on the UK gang and will take the points with my free NCAA basketball pick.