South Carolina vs. Kentucky: Dangerous Underdog Worth a Wager as Tonight's NCAA Basketball Pick

Darin Zank

Saturday, February 14, 2015 1:43 PM GMT

As Kentucky rolls toward an undefeated regular season the only real roadblock it's come across has been the pointspreads; the Wildcats are 0-5 against the numbers their last five games. Big Blue is a big favorite Saturday at home against South Carolina.

 

Gamecocks-Wildcats Betting Odds
The college basketball betting odds market opened this game with Kentucky favored by 17.5 points, and that line was holding steady in the early betting.

 

Gamecocks-Wildcats: Breakdown
Kentucky began this season as the No. 1 team in the land, the clear favorite to win the national championship. Now at 24-0 the Wildcats stand as the last undefeated team in D-1, and at 11-0 in conference play they lead the SEC by three games over Arkansas and Ole Miss.

But one thing Kentucky has not been doing lately is cover spreads. Five games ago the Wildcats beat Missouri but couldn't cover as 17-point favorites; then they beat Alabama but came up short ATS at -19; the same thing happened with Georgia at -18, Florida at -8 and, most recently, LSU at -9.

Tuesday night Kentucky beat Louisiana State 71-69, ending the game on an 11-3 run. The Wildcats led by 13 with about 13 minutes to go, but couldn't close the door, allowing the Tigers to come back and take the lead, before rallying late themselves.

On the other side of this match-up South Carolina returned most of the roster this season from a team that went 14-20 last season, so some improvement was expected. But the Gamecocks look like they'll finish near the bottom in the SEC, again, and that's not going to get them anywhere.

SC started 9-3 this season, with wins over Oklahoma State, Clemson and Iowa State, the three losses coming by a total of 11 points. But the 'Cocks have struggled in conference play, going 3-8 SU and just 2-9 ATS. Last time out South Carolina snapped a two-game losing streak with a 65-60 victory over Missouri, but lost ATS as a 10-point favorite.

At 3-8 in the SEC the Gamecocks are tied for 11th place, and need two more victories just to match last season's conference win total of five. Not exactly the improvement they were hoping for.

Kentucky took the first meeting between these teams this season three weeks ago in Columbia 58-43, covering as a 12-point favorite. The 'Cats only led by one late in the first half, then went on a 16-1 run to take over. South Carolina pulled to within the spread about halfway through the second half, but missed 19 of its last 23 shots.

Kentucky shot 46 percent from the floor that night, and held SC to just 23 percent. But the Gamecocks out-rebounded the Wildcats 40-28.

That game played way UNDER its total of 124.

Last season, in their only meeting, the Gamecocks upset Kentucky 72-67 as 10-point home dogs.

 

Gamecocks-Wildcats Key Stats
On the season South Carolina is shooting 41 percent from the floor, just 30 percent from 3-point land but 73 percent from the free-throw line, which for a college team ain't too bad. At the other end of the court the Gamecocks are holding foes to just 37 percent FG shooting, and that ranks in the top 10 in the country.

Kentucky is shooting 46 percent from the floor, 35 percent from long range and 70 percent from the line, while holding foes to just 34 percent FG shooting, which ranks No. 1 in the nation.

 

Gamecocks-Wildcats Betting Trends
South Carolina has trended toward the UNDERS this season by a 13-6 margin, as Gamecocks games have averaged 128 points.

Kentucky has skewed UNDER by a 15-9 margin, as Wildcats games have averaged 126 points. However, UK has played five OVERS in a row, mainly because of some low betting totals.

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Gamecocks-Wildcats Free Pick
Two items point us toward South Carolina in this spot; the Gamecocks can play some defense, and the spread on this game is probably inflated by at least a bucket or two toward Kentucky. South Carolina might be a little shorthanded today, but this is a national TV game, with all those stupid TV timeouts, so fatigue shouldn't really be a factor. So while the Wildcats are very likely to win this game outright, we'll take the points with the dog for this NCAA Basketball pick.

Free College Basketball Pick: South Carolina +17.5 at 5Dimes