College Basketball Picks: Kentucky vs. Kansas Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 11/14/2011
It was a nice betting start to the college basketball season with my first game preview story last week as I took North Carolina -9 and the ‘under’ against Michigan State in the first Carrier Classic, and both were winners in the Heels’ 67-55 win.
The game of the week comes early this week, and Tuesday night is easily the best night of the season so far -- and for sure this week -- thanks in large part to ESPN’s 24-Hour Tip-Off Marathon. It was tough passing up previewing Duke-Michigan State from Madison Square Garden, what with Sparty looking to bounce back against the other ACC superpower and Blue Devils Coach Mike Krzyzewski one win shy of setting the NCAA career wins mark he currently shares with Bobby Knight. And it was also very tough to pass up previewing the season’s first Top-10 matchup when Florida visits Ohio State on Tuesday night in what could be a Final Four preview.
But when bluebloods Kentucky and Kansas take the floor against each other, well, you can’t pass on that one. Kentucky ranks No. 1 all-time in college basketball with 2,053 wins, while Kansas is No. 2 with 2,038 victories. The No. 2 Wildcats and No. 11 Jayhawks are the nightcap after Duke-MSU of the Champions Classic at the Garden.
Kentucky vs. Kansas Betting Storylines
The Wildcats have won their first three games (counting two exhibitions) by a combined 179 points. The Jayhawks have won their first three (also counting two exhibitions) by a combined 124 points.
UK crushed Marist, 108-58, in Lexington on Friday. Of course, Kentucky Coach John Calipari brought in one of the most heralded recruiting classes in years and the gem of that group was on full display against Marist. Center Anthony Davis had 23 points and 10 rebounds (not to mention five blocks) to join current sophomore Terrence Jones and Sam Bowie as the only freshmen in Kentucky history with 20-10 games in their debuts. Davis was 10-for-13 with a whopping eight dunks. Look for either him or UConn’s Andre Drummond to be the top pick in the 2012 NBA draft – you know, presuming there is an NBA by that point.
Kansas, which lost a ton of talent from last year’s Big 12 championship team and had a few top recruits declared ineligible, blasted Towson, 100-54, on Friday in Lawrence. Really only two key pieces are back from last year’s Jayhawks team and both were good in the opener: Tyshawn Taylor had 12 points and four assists and Thomas Robinson, my pick as this year’s Big 12 Player of the Year, had 18 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.
From a pure talent standpoint, this is a mismatch. Kentucky has probably six players who would be likely to be taken if the NBA Draft were tomorrow, while KU has only Robinson and maybe Taylor. The matchup to watch is certainly Robinson, a junior, and Davis (although Jones could get some time on Robinson and vice versa). Robinson has the edge in bulk and might be able to get Davis in foul trouble. If Robinson himself gets early fouls, against whichever defender, this game could get away from Kansas. And certainly Taylor, a senior, will have to outplay his point guard counterpart, UK freshman Marquis Teague for the Jayhawks, to pull off the upset. Every other matchup appears to favor Kentucky.
Kentucky vs. Kansas Betting Odds and Trends
Kentucky opened as a six-point favorite with the total at 147.5 on NCAA basketball odds. I happen to think trends are about worthless this early, as are most historical ones in college basketball, but here are a few: Kansas is 7-1 ATS in past eight vs. SEC. Kentucky is 8-2 ATS in past 10 nonconference games. UK hasn’t covered in past five meetings vs. Big 12 teams. The under is 4-0 in both teams’ past four neutral-site games.
College Basketball Picks: Kentucky vs. Kansas Betting Predictions
For what it’s worth, this will be the first meeting between Bill Self and Calipari since April 7, 2008, when Kansas defeated Memphis, 75-68, in overtime in the National Championship Game. This is the 26th meeting all-time between the schools with Kentucky leading 19-6. KU has won the past three, however, including the last meeting, in the second round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament. Kansas, the No. 1 seed, defeated Kentucky 88-76 in Chicago.
One big concern for Kansas has to be on the boards. It was outrebounded by a small Towson team 35-32 in the opener. Self called out forward Travis Releford, who had 14 points but just one rebound in 25 minutes. It’s always hard to gauge how a group of freshmen will play early in the season, much less in the bright lights of the Big Apple. But I like Kentucky to cover. And it should be a fast-paced game so take the ‘over’.
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