Sweet 16 Picks: Kentucky vs. Ohio State Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 3/25/2011
With all due respect to the other seven games, if you don’t think Kentucky vs. Ohio State is the glamour matchup of the Sweet 16 then you simply don’t know college basketball. This East Region game on Friday night in Newark, N.J., is the highlight of the Sweet 16, with the winner to face the Marquette-North Carolina victor on Sunday.
How the Teams Enter
Kentucky (27-8) didn’t seem to know what it was for most of the season, dominating at home but mostly stinking it up on the road. But starting with a home win on Feb. 26 vs. then-No. 13 Florida, the Wildcats have found their rhythm and have won eight in a row. In the Big Dance they were fortunate to beat a game Princeton team in the second round, winning on a Brandon Knight layup in the final seconds, 59-57 (UK’s only non-cover in the past four games). That was especially noteworthy considering Knight hadn’t scored to that point. Then UK avenged a 2010 Elite Eight loss to West Virginia with a 71-63 victory in the Round of 32. Knight followed his two-point effort vs. Princeton with a career-high 30 against the Mountaineers.
Ohio State (34-2) was the Big Ten’s regular-season and tournament champion and has played better than anyone so far in the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes thrashed UT-San Antonio in the second round and then embarrassed a very good George Mason team in the Round of 32. Combined, Ohio State, the tourney’s No. 1 overall seed and the betting favorite to win it all, won those games by a total of 62 points – needless to say covering both. The Buckeyes shot 58.6 percent from the field and 56 percent on 3-pointers total. OSU actually trailed George Mason 11-2 at one point only to outscore the Patriots 50-15 the rest of the first half.
Kentucky vs. Ohio State Betting Storylines
Since Duke’s Kyrie Irving only played eight games this season, it’s probably fair to say the three best freshmen in the nation will be on the court Friday night: Kentucky’s Knight and Terrence Jones and Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger. Enjoy them now because all three are likely one-and-done as lock lottery picks in the NBA Draft.
Jones averaged 17.1 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in the regular season. He led the SEC in double-doubles (11). Knight averaged 17.7 points in the regular season and set the UK freshman record for 20-point games in season with 12. Sullinger, the National Freshman of the Year, averaged 17.2 points and 10.1 rebounds while shooting better than 53 percent from the field during the season. The scary thing about the Buckeyes in the NCAA Tournament is that they are crushing foes without huge games from Sullinger. He had double-doubles in all three Big Ten Tournament games but has yet to have one in the NCAA Tournament – of course, he also hasn’t had to play a ton of minutes with the big leads. That’s not likely to happen on Friday.
The key player here could be a guy who averaged 1.3 points in four minutes per game last season as a junior. That would be UK center Josh Harrellson. In the Wildcats' first two NCAA Tournament games, he had 30 points and 18 rebounds combined. The 6-foot-10, 275-pounder will no doubt be the primary defender on Sullinger.
Kentucky leads the all-time series, 10-9. But Ohio State is 5-0 vs. Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes’ last win in the series came in the 1987 NCAA tourney. For what it’s worth, OSU won at Florida by 18 in the Buckeyes’ second game of the season. Kentucky beat Florida twice this season but lost by two in the one game in Gainesville.
Kentucky vs. Ohio State Betting Odds and Trends
OSU is a 5.5-point favorite, according to college basketball odds, with the total at 140.
UK is 4-0 ATS in its past four as an underdog. Ah, but the Cats are just 1-7 ATS in their past eight games following an ATS win.
OSU is 5-0 ATS in its past five non-conference games.
The ‘under’ has hit in five of UK’s past seven games.
The ‘over’ has hit in OSU’s past 10 games.
Sweet 16 Picks: Kentucky vs. Ohio State Predictions
If Harrellson can stay out of foul trouble and at least be a factor against Sullinger, then Kentucky has a chance. Still, it’s hard to bet against the fact that Ohio State has four veteran starters against all the Kentucky inexperience. Give the points and take OSU and the ‘over’.
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