Ride Better-Tested Kentucky In Top-10 Showdown At Louisville

Kentucky Wildcats player

Mark Lathrop

Wednesday, December 21, 2016 1:01 AM GMT

Our college basketball handicapper is coming off of a 20-plus-point cover backing Syracuse. Now it's on to one of the non-conference games of the season as No. 6 Kentucky visits blood-rival No. 10 Louisville on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN). 

In the marquee matchup of the week and the battle of college basketball supremacy in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, 10-1 Wildcats travel down the road to face the 10-1 Cardinals in their annual nationally televised grudge match. The NCAA basketball line opened with the home team favored by as many as 2 points but swung quickly in favor of the Wildcats as early money flowed in on Kentucky.

This features one of the best offenses in the country in Kentucky facing the nation's best defense in Louisville. The Wildcats average 95.2 points per game on a blistering 49 percent shooting. Louisville allows just 59.4 points per game on 35.9 percent shooting. Something has to give. The Louisville offense is 132nd in the nation at 78.5 points per game, a number the Cards will likely have to exceed to keep up with Kentucky’s various scoring threats.

This is Kentucky’s true road test of their season, and the Cats have only gone 2-5 SU in that situation in the last seven. They go against a Louisville team that has captured a significant home-court advantage on the year, going 7-0 SU and 6-0 ATS on NCAA basketball picks. The Cardinals have leaned on their defense at home, which has led to a 6-0 start favoring the 'under' with games averaging 142 points.

A perennial matchup like this, where coaching staffs and systems have stayed the same, is one of the only times that I like to seriously look at head-to-head ATS trends. In this aspect, Kentucky has dominated this series. Not only have the Wildcats gone 5-0 ATS in their last five games against Louisville, but they have gone 7-0 ATS in their last seven meetings as the road team in the series.

I see the strength of schedule for Kentucky to be an advantage. While Louisville was stymied by an up-and-coming Baylor team, its only win against a now-ranked opponent was against Purdue. Since that game in November, Louisville has played four cupcakes leading up to this. Kentucky, on the other hand, has played in December a Top-5 UCLA team (a loss) and beat a top-10 North Carolina team last Friday.

But it really comes down to this for me: I can’t fade Kentucky and go against a 7-0 ATS away streak in the same situation. Kentucky coach John Calipari has shown that he owns this matchup with four straight wins. Season record: 13-6 (+6.40 units). 

NCAAB Free Pick: UK At Pick'emBest Line Offered: 5Dimes

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