Tuesday, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Free NCAAB Pick: Wildcats ATS
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Although Kentucky is gunning for their sixth win over their last seven games, and have climbed the rankings to No. 12 in the nation, those who have been blindly backing the Cats in their college basketball picks lately are not feeling the love. That’s right, Kentucky is winning on the court but not at the windows, having failed to cover in their last three contests. On Saturday night that pattern continued as they welcomed another SEC rival, Vanderbilt, to the Rupp Arena and won a defensive battle 56-47 but failed to cover the 13-point impost.
The Bulldogs of Georgia have won four of their last six and, unlike their popular rivals on Tuesday night, have covered the number in seven of their last nine games. But Saturday night was not one of those as the Dawgs fell 93-78 at Auburn and came excruciatingly close to covering as 14 ½ point road dogs, but alas, the hook was not in their favor.
Kentucky won both meetings against Georgia last season, with the first coming via a regular season game in which the Bulldogs played tough but the Wildcats rallied to a 66-61 victory. The rematch took place in the SEC Conference semifinals in which Kentucky was well prepared and blasted Georgia 62-49 as five-point favorites. The Cats would go on to win their fourth consecutive SEC tournament title with a win over Tennessee in the finals.
So that’s a look at the recent history but what happens tonight? These teams are not far apart in any category with Kentucky having an edge in scoring and defense but the Dawgs are hauling in an average of 41.6 boards per game while the Cats are averaging 38 rebounds per contest. Yet, Kentucky is being dealt in the early college basketball odds boards as seven-point road chalk despite scoring just three points more than their hosts on Tuesday night. However, we have not seen the best of Kentucky quite yet. This is a team that gets loads of public action simply because they are a household college basketball name ala Duke, North Carolina, et al and the squares love laying it in on teams that usually win.
Consider me Joe Q. Public because I believe they will roll over this Georgia team by double-digits. The Wildcats have continued to struggle out of the blocks only to close games out in the second half, just like they did against Vanderbilt over the weekend. But this is a team that will eventually figure it out and the smothering defense the Cats employed on Saturday night against the Commodores is foreshadowing of more to come. Kentucky will learn, and soon, that in order to be a national powerhouse they will need to kick it into overdrive from the beginning and not hit the nitrous button when the finish line is within spitting distance.
Remember, this is a young team with two freshmen as their mainstays in Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro which is why they have not quite gotten the blueprint down. However, expect sophomore PJ Washington and senior Reid Travis to have a big impact in this SEC showdown and watch the Wildcats win this one easy.