#5 Kentucky vs #19 Tennessee College Basketball Expert Predictions, Picks & Previews

#5 Kentucky vs #19 Tennessee | College Basketball Expert Predictions, Picks & Previews

The game of the night in college basketball Tuesday is from the SEC as No. 5 Kentucky visits No. 19 Tennessee – both are good enough to reach the Final Four. The Cats likely will be very short road favorites on the NCAAB odds, although a key Kentucky injury may affect the number.

How to Bet Kentucky at Tennessee NCAA Basketball Odds & TV Info

Last Meeting

On Jan. 15, the Cats shockingly crushed the Vols 107-79 in Lexington. Freshman TyTy Washington Jr. scored a career-high 28 points, and Sahvir Wheeler added 21 points as Kentucky shot a season-high 68%. The Wildcats made their first five shots and 22 of 28 by halftime, with their 78.6% shooting tying a program record set in the first half against Mississippi on Jan. 14, 1981 (11 of 14). The 107 points were UK’s most against an Associated Press Top 25 team since scoring 107 against Vanderbilt on Jan. 4, 1994. Santiago Vescovi scored 20 points and Kennedy Chandler 17 for Tennessee, which shot 53% but wasn’t close for the final 30 minutes. The Vols also committed 20 turnovers that Kentucky turned into 32 points.

Why Bet on Kentucky?

Kentucky (21-4) won its sixth in a row Saturday, 78-57 over Florida. The Cats are this writer’s pick to win the national title for what that’s worth. The Wildcats put the game away by scoring 13 of the first 15 points to open the second half.

“This is a tough place to play and there was a lot of energy,” Florida coach Mike White said. “When the second half starts the same way, it can be disheartening. We have to be tougher mentally … we’ve got to be better than that and then go on to the next play.”

Star freshman TyTy Washington had 10 points for Kentucky, including eight in the second half, before leaving the game with 12:51 remaining with a lower left leg injury. He didn’t return. Coach John Calipari said an X-ray was negative, adding the guard is “day-to-day.”

“He still might be out a week or two,” Calipari said. “It could be a muscle, it could be something that separated.”

Kentucky limited Florida to 57 points. UK is 201-9 (95.7%) under Calipari when keeping the opponent to 63 points or less, including 13-0 this season. Kentucky tied a season low for turnovers with only five miscues.  UK turned a 10-5 difference in turnovers into a 17-4 advantage in points off turnovers.

Kentucky dominated the rebounding 41-25, collecting 18 offensive boards that led to a 20-7 gap in second-chance points. The +16 margin ties the largest margin this season against an SEC opponent. Kentucky’s largest lead was the final margin. UK is 306-13 (95.9%) under Calipari when leading by at least 10 points at any time in the contest.

Oscar Tshiebwe totaled 27 points and 19 rebounds. It was his seventh-straight double-double, the first Wildcat to do that since Julius Randle in 2013. It was also his 19th double-double of the season, ranking second in the nation in that category. It was his team-leading eighth 20-point game of the season and fifth game with at least 20 points and 15 rebounds. He’s the first UK player to achieve the feat since Kenny Walker had five such games in 1984-85. Tshiebwe is the only SEC player to have five 20-point, 15-rebound games in the last 25 years.

He has 12 straight games with double-figure rebounds, first Wildcat to do so since Dan Issel had 12 in a row in the 1969-70 season. It is the longest streak of any SEC player since at least 1996-97

Kellan Grady tallied 15 points, primarily on the strength of four 3-pointers.   Over the last 16 games he is averaging 13.8 points per game while shooting 45.5 percent (55 of 121) from 3-point range. Has made a 3-pointer in 18 straight games, most since Jamal Murray made a 3 in all 36 games of the 2015-16 season.  Grady has made at least two 3-pointers in seven straight games.

Why Bet on Tennessee?

The Vols won their fourth in a row Saturday, 73-64 over Vanderbilt. The Volunteers (18-6) led by as many as 16 points early in the second half. The Commodores cut the difference to a point with 11:34 to play. From there, Tennessee’s defense held Vanderbilt scoreless for more than four minutes to get some breathing room. Tennessee had a 15-4 advantage in offensive rebounds which translated into a 17-3 edge in second-chance points.

“Early in the season, rebounding was a major concern,” Coach Rick Barnes said. “We expect our guards down there to clean it up.”

The Vols had four players reach double figures, as SEC Sixth Man of the Year candidate Zakai Zeigler notched a team-high 16 points, Josiah-Jordan James tallied 14, John Fulkerson had 12 and Santiago Vescovi scored 10.

Vescovi was limited to only 21 minutes, his second-lowest run of the year, due to foul trouble in the second half. His impact was immense when he was on the floor as he logged a game-best plus/minus of +21. James posted his second double-double of the season, pulling down 10 rebounds in addition to his 14 points. The junior guard was strong from the charity stripe, connecting on 9-of-10 from the line.

Tennessee improved to 13-0 at home this season. Dating to last season, the Vols have won 14 straight inside Thompson-Boling Arena.

The Vols rank sixth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing only 87.8 points per 100 possessions. Tennessee averages an SEC-best 16.0 assists per game during league play (176 assists on 271 FGs). The Vols also are making a league-best 9.09 3-pointers per game in SEC play. The Vols rank among the Division I top 20 in steals per game (10.1, eighth), turnover margin (+4.7, 10th), assists per game (17.0, 13th) and turnovers forced per game (17.3, 16th).

Expert Prediction

  • Kentucky 72, Tennessee 70
  
 

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