Sometimes, despite a team’s recent results, an upcoming matchup screams “trap game.” It’s easy for me to say this without having published such a thing here at Doc’s Sports, but last Saturday’s Syracuse at Notre Dame game looked for all the world like a major trap for the Orange. And they indeed suffered their first loss of the season and fell from the top of the polls a few days later. The only reason I didn’t write that game was I had covered Syracuse twice before.
I mention this because Saturday’s SEC matchup between the new No. 1 team, Kentucky, and LSU also looks very much like a possible trap for the rolling Wildcats. But are the scheduling gods playing favorites with UK?
Interesting note came out this week. The SEC added short turnarounds -- playing on Thursday nights and then on Saturday -- to its schedule in 2009, a year after it signed a 15-year contract with ESPN. So in theory each team should have to do that quick turnaround at least a few times each season. Yet Kentucky has played only twice on one day’s rest since the new schedule went into effect and won’t this regular season. Florida and Mississippi have seven quick turnarounds, followed by Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt with five each. It’s not really relevant for this game – although LSU has one day less of rest having played Wednesday – but keep that in mind going forward.
I improved to 7-2 on the side this year thanks to Florida State’s buzzer-beating upset at Duke last Saturday.
Kentucky at LSU Betting Storylines
The Tigers (12-8, 2-4 SEC) are clearly a much better team than the ones that won 11 games in each of the past two seasons and a total of five SEC games in that stretch. However, LSU does enter this one having lost four of its past five. To be fair, all four losses were on the road. On Wednesday it played well at No. 16 Mississippi State in falling 76-71. LSU led for most of the first half and nearly staged a rally from nine points down 1:50 left.
The good news is that LSU is finally healthy. Against MSU the Tigers were playing for the first time in the SEC with everyone healthy as freshman 6-foot-9 forward Johnny O'Bryant played for the first time after missing five games with a broken bone in his hand. He played 20 minutes, scoring six points with four rebounds. Guard Andre Stringer, who missed five games in December, scored 17 points. Stringer came off the bench after three straight poor performances and it seemed to motivate him.
Kentucky (20-1, 6-0) has won 12 straight since a loss to Indiana knocked UK from the top of the polls in early December. It’s the second longest winning streak in the John Calipari era behind the 19-0 start by the 2009-10 squad.
But UK was held to its fewest points of the season in winning 57-44 at Georgia on Tuesday. Kentucky was pretty bad in the second half against the Dawgs, going more than five minutes without scoring and making just 7-of-23 shots over the course of the final 20 minutes. Kentucky’s defense was solid, however, holding Georgia to 35 percent shooting and limiting the Bulldogs to only three free-throw attempts. Since that Indiana loss, UK is beating opponents by an average of 17.3 points. Kentucky is now 4-2 as the nation’s No. 1 team under Calipari.
These teams played only once last season and it was ugly: Kentucky won, 82-44, in Lexington. But then the Wildcats have yet to lose at home under Calipari and are 39-5 at home all-time vs. LSU. In 2009 in Baton Rouge it wasn’t pretty either, an 81-55 Cats win.
LSU is 3-14 against No. 1 AP teams. LSU has defeated Kentucky once in the seven times the teams have played when the Wildcats were No. 1, 95-94 in Baton Rouge in 1978.
Kentucky at LSU Betting Odds and Trends
UK opened as a 10-point favorite with the total at 129 on NCAA basketball odds. Kentucky is 5-14-1 ATS this season (one of worst ATS marks in country) and 1-3 ATS on road. LSU is 11-6 ATS overall and 3-4 at home. ‘Over/under’ records: UK 7-12-1, LSU 7-10.
The Cats are 2-9-1 ATS in past 12 vs. teams with a winning record. They are 0-8 ATS in past eight Saturday games. LSU is 6-2 ATS in past eight after a loss. The under is 8-0 in UK’s past eight road games. The over is 5-1 in LSU’s six SEC games. UK has covered in five of its past six in Baton Rouge.
College Basketball Picks: Kentucky at LSU Betting Predictions
If LSU has a chance, it must rebound better. Thanks to star freshman Anthony Davis, Kentucky ranks No. 12 in the nation in rebound and outrebounded Georgia 41-26. LSU was crushed on the boards by Mississippi State, 46-26. But normally the Tigers are pretty solid in that category (leading the SEC in offensive boards) and O’Bryant’s return will only help there. If somehow LSU can hold Kentucky under 60 things are looking up. LSU is 11-1 when holding opponents under 60 this year and has won seven in a row.
LSU has already beaten a ranked team at home this season – Marquette by eight – and almost did the same against Virginia before losing by five. The Tigers are 2-0 at home in SEC play. I’m not picking the upset here, although it wouldn’t shock me, but I am taking LSU and the points. And the under.
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