Matchup: #1 Kentucky Wildcats at Missouri Tigers
Date/Time: January 29, 9:00 p.m. ET
Spread: Kentucky -18.5
Overconfidence could be a problem for the undefeated Kentucky Wildcats when they take on the Missouri Tigers on Thursday night on ESPN. The Wildcats beat the Tigers 86-37 on January 13 after back-to-back overtime wins, so Kentucky used that game against Missouri to make a statement. Sixteen days later, Missouri will try to return the favor. They’re probably not going to win the game, but Missouri could consider it a win if they are able to cover the 18.5-point spread.
After those aforementioned overtime wins, Kentucky has seemed to hit that second gear that everybody knew was bound to happen. Including the 86-39 rout of Missouri, Kentucky has won three of their last four games by at least 15 points. The lone “slip-up” in that span was an eight-point win over Vanderbilt on January 20. One growing concern for Kentucky is their offense. The Wildcats are averaging 74.6 points per game this season, but they have scored 70 points or less in four of their last five games and one of those games was a double overtime victory. Despite the offensive struggles, Kentucky has allowed 70 points or less in 18 of their 19 games.
John Calipari’s “platoon” system continues to be the status quo for the Wildcats this season. Only Aaron Harrison has seen more than 25 minutes of action per game. As a result of the reduced playing time across the board, only two Wildcats, Harrison and Devin Booker, have averaged more than 10 points per game. The Wildcats are shooting nearly 46 percent per game from the floor, which is rather impressive given how the players rotate on and off of the court. Kentucky leads all 351 teams in blocks per game with eight and they are second in total defense.
The Missouri Tigers have really dropped off over the last couple of years. Following an early NIT exit last season, Frank Haith left for the head coaching job at Tulsa. Kim Anderson, a very successful coach in the Division II ranks with Central Arkansas, took over the reins and the transition has been rocky at best. The Tigers are just 7-12 this season and 1-5 in the relatively weak SEC. Missouri has lost five straight games and they have averaged just 55.4 points per game in that span. The Tigers are a much different team than they were when they had guys like Phil Pressey and Laurence Bowers.
Missouri is only scoring 63.2 points per game this season after scoring 73 per game last season and 76 per game the season before that. Johnathan Williams III leads the team with 12.6 points per game and Montaque Gill-Caesar is the only other Tiger in double figures. Gill-Caesar is a freshman from Canada. There are only two seniors on Anderson’s team, so the transition year could also be attributed to a lot of youth. One of Missouri’s biggest problems on offense is that they have 252 turnovers against 207 assists. They are turning the ball over 13 times per game. In the first matchup against Kentucky, Missouri shot 16-of-59 (27.1 percent) from the floor and made just one of their 15 three-point attempts.
Kentucky and Virginia are the lone unbeaten teams left in Division I college basketball. Kentucky is 11-8 against the spread in their 19 games. They have been one of the best under teams in college basketball with 15 unders and four overs. Missouri is just 7-12 straight up and 7-10-2 against the spread. Like Kentucky, the under has been profitable in Missouri games with a 10-6-2 record.
Free College Basketball Picks: Missouri Tigers
This is a tough bet to make because Missouri was soundly beaten by the Wildcats when they two teams played on the 13th and that could definitely happen again. There are some wagering angles in play for Missouri because of how badly they got beat. Also, Kentucky has struggled offensively over the last three games, which could allow Missouri to hang within this huge number.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.