The No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats are currently one of the hottest and most consistent teams in the nation as we head into tournament season, having won eight games in a row. The Wildcats have already clinched the SEC title outright and are now playing for NCAA tournament seeding.
On Tuesday night, they will host the Tennessee Volunteers, who are currently 16-13 on the season and 8-8 in league play. The Vols are coming off of a win over the Florida Gators last weekend in a game that the Vols dominated early but almost fumbled away late.
Tennessee’s season and aspirations took a serious hit earlier in the season when senior point guard Lamonte Turner opted for season-ending knee surgery, leaving the Vols already thin roster even more anemic. Since the loss of their leader, the Vols are just 8-10 overall.
In the previous meeting between these two teams, Kentucky won in Knoxville 77-64. It should be noted that freshman guard/wing Josiah-Jordan James did not play for the Volunteers in that game.
The former five-star recruit is averaging 7.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 2.9 assists on the season while shooting 37% from the arc, 44% in league play.
Kentucky is an 8.5-point favorite at home, with the over/under set at 131.
Tennessee has been surprising
When Turner went down, many expected the Vols to take a serious nose dive, but that hasn’t really been the case. Tennessee is 13-16 against the spread overall and 5-5 ATS in true road games. The Vols are just 3-8 straight up as a dog and 1-5 SU in their last six games on the road.
While the Vols go under 66% of the time at home, they have gone over in seven of their 10 games on the road this season. In their last 20 games against the Wildcats, they are just 7-13 straight up.
Wildcats are gearing up for a title run
As stated earlier, Kentucky has really come together late in the season. Big Blue is 7-1 against the spread in their last eight games and 15-13-1 overall ATS on the season. The Wildcats are 16-1 straight up in Lexington this season and 20-3 SU as the favorite.
They have allowed more than 66 points just twice during their current eight-game winning streak and are one of the best defensive teams in the entire nation, ranking ninth in opponent’s effective field goal percentage.
Why is this spread shrinking?
Since opening at Kentucky -10.5, this spread has shrunk to UK -8.5. For what reason, I could not tell you, but I like it. You have one of the best defensive teams in the nation, which is also possibly the hottest team in the nation, playing a team that really struggles to score the basketball.
The Vols rank just 296th in the nation in points per game at 66.7 and the 40th percentile in points per possession at 0.87.
With all that being said, do we really trust this Kentucky team? Some may say no, I, however, am a firm believer that it is time to buy stock in the Wildcats. Nick Richards’ development has been remarkable while Immanuel Quickley has turned himself in a legitimate SEC player of the year candidate.
Tyrese Maxey and Ashton Hagans are terrors on the defensive end, and Nate Sestina has been effective in a few games lately. I liked the spread at -10.5, and I absolutely love it at -8.5. Hammer the Wildcats to cover at home. Play the over.