Date/Time: February 18 at 7:00 p.m. EST
College Basketball Betting Favorite: Kentucky -4.5
The Kentucky Wildcats came into the season with some very lofty expectations. It’s fair to say this team hasn’t lived up to those expectations thus far. There is still some time left for them to get on track, but they need win games like this one. Mississippi is a 16-9 team that looks to be on the outside looking in for the NCAA Tournament field. The Rebels need a signature win to help their tournament chances.
Kentucky came into the season with expectations of dominating with their tremendous freshmen class. There was some talk of Kentucky running the table this year. Instead, Kentucky has gone 19-6 so far this season. The Wildcats best win was a home win over rival Louisville, but Kentucky has struggled against many of the top teams they have played this year. Their loss at home to Florida last Saturday was a sign of how inconsistent this team is even inside a single game. Kentucky led by seven points with 11 minutes left in the game before falling 69-59 to the Gators.
Coach Calipari is still searching for answers. Calipari has actually had Kentucky playing some zone defense the last few games to try to solve some of their problems. That has led to some lower scoring games from the Wildcats. Four players average at least 11 points per game for Kentucky on offense. Their biggest weakness offensively is their inability to knock down perimeter jumpers. If Kentucky can’t score in the paint, they have a hard time winning games. The Wildcats are the single best offensive rebounding team in the country so far this season.
Mississippi made it into the NCAA Tournament last year, and they knocked out Wisconsin in the round of 64. Marshall Henderson is the face of this team. Henderson is a very good long range shooter when he is open, but he is also prone to taking a lot of bad shots. Henderson leads the team in scoring at 19.5 points per game. He is shooting only 37.3% from the floor, so the Rebels need him to shoot the ball better from the floor if they are going to beat a team like Kentucky. Jarvis Summers has turned into a star as well. Summers is averaging 16.8 points per game, while shooting a solid 49% from the floor.
The biggest weakness for the Mississippi Rebels has been their inability to grab a defensive rebound. As I said earlier, Kentucky’s biggest strength is their ability to crash the offensive glass. The Rebels are going to have to find a way to keep guys like Randle and Poythress off the offensive glass if they are going to win this game. Other than their weakness on the glass, the Rebels have been solid on the defensive end this season.
Free Pick: Kentucky -4.5
I’m not extremely high on Kentucky right now, but I also think this is a bad matchup for Mississippi. The Rebels are going to be hurt on the boards in this one, and that will likely be too much to overcome.
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