March Madness Free Picks: Indiana vs. Kentucky, Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 3/21/2012
There is one regular-season rematch in the Sweet 16 and it comes in the second game Friday night in South Region at Atlanta as No. 1 Kentucky, the 11/5 overall favorite to win the NCAA title, faces No. 4 Indiana. The winner of that one gets the Xavier-Baylor victor on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.
Of course, UK and IU are practically next-door neighbors – this will be their 56th meeting -- and two of the most storied programs in college basketball. The schools have combined for 12 National Championships and 22 Final Four trips – the Cats got there last year but lost to eventual national Champion UConn. This is Indiana’s first trip since 2008 as Tom Crean has rebuilt the program from the mess Kelvin Sampson left. This is IU’s first Sweet 16 trip since reaching the 2002 National Championship Game under Bobby Knight replacement Mike Davis and losing to Maryland.
Indiana vs. Kentucky Betting Story Lines
Kentucky (34-2) hasn’t had much trouble in its first two NCAA Tournament games off a shocking loss in the SEC Tournament final to Vanderbilt. The Cats beat First Four team Western Kentucky, the only team in the Big Dance with a losing record, 81-66, and then Iowa State, 87-71. Indiana (27-8) wasn’t too challenged in its opener, a 79-66 win over New Mexico State. But IU was pushed big-time in the Round of 32 before beating VCU, 63-61, on a baseline jumper by Will Sheehey with 12.7 seconds left. The Hoosiers trailed the game at one point, 57-48, and had 22 turnovers but held the Rams to just four points in the final 12-plus minutes. By the way, that improved IU to 3-0 this season against 2011 Final Four teams.
The first meeting of the season between these two was an instant classic and was Kentucky’s only loss before the SEC Tournament. The unranked Hoosiers upset then-No. 1 Kentucky on Dec. 10 in Bloomington, 73-72, on a three-pointer at the buzzer by Christian Watford that set off pandemonium at Assembly Hall (and a memorable call by Dick Vitale).
Cats star Anthony Davis, the 4/1 Bovada favorite to win this year’s Final Four MOP, missed the front end of a one-and-one with 19.9 seconds to go. Doron Lamb, who led the Wildcats with 19 points, missed the first of two free throws with 5.6 seconds left. Plus, the Cats had two fouls to give on IU’s final possession so the three-point attempt really never should have happened – these young Wildcats really were freshmen that early in the year (I would argue they aren’t by now). Watford led five Hoosiers in double figures with 20 points. Davis, the likely National Player of the Year, had a very quiet game with just six points (only four shot attempts), nine rebounds and three blocks and was outplayed by IU frosh star Cody Zeller. And UK’s Terrence Jones was practically invisible with four points and six turnovers.
It was Indiana’s first win over a top-ranked team since beating Duke in the 2002 NCAA tourney run. But one key Hoosier from that game is out injured for the season. That would be guard Verdell Jones III, who had eight points, four rebounds and three assists in 34 minutes against Kentucky – he threw the pass to Watford for the game-winner. In addition, IU now has to count on three key bench players, Derek Elston, Matt Roth and Remy Abell, who didn’t play at all in the first meeting.
Look for Indiana to try and do what Vanderbilt did to Kentucky in the SEC Championship Game. The Commodores won that by going to a zone and collapsing on Davis and Jones and making UK beat them from long range. It worked as Kentucky was 6-for-28 from three-point range. Iowa State tried much of the same thing, but the Wildcats made their first six threes of the second half and were 10-for-20 for the game, shooting 64 percent overall in the final 20 minutes. UK was just 2-for-7 from long range in the first meeting with Indiana.
Indiana vs. Kentucky Betting Odds and Key Trends
UK is a nine-point favorite (it was 5.5 back in December) with the total at 146.5 on NCAA basketball odds. Indiana is 18-11 ATS overall this season and 3-2 ATS at neutral sites (4-1 SU). UK is 13-21-1 ATS overall and 3-5 ATS at neutral sites (7-1 SU). ‘Over/under’ records: UK 14-19-2, IU 14-14-1. Seven of the Hoosiers’ past nine games have gone under. Five of UK’s past eight games have gone over. The Wildcats have only covered in three of their past 10 games.
March Madness Picks: Indiana vs. Kentucky Betting Predictions
Everything points to a UK blowout in my mind. No way Davis and Jones lay eggs like they did in the first meeting; Davis was in foul trouble back in December and is a much bigger force now, especially on the offensive end. And freshman point guard Marquis Teague (who is from Indianapolis), once considered a potential weak link, is coming off his best game of the season against Iowa State and also is much improved from the first meeting. Plus, this will practically be a home game for UK as Kentucky fans are very familiar with traveling to Atlanta for the SEC Tournament (although it was in New Orleans this year). It should be a sea of blue.
That first game was largely trap in my opinion for the Cats. They were coming off a huge last-second home win over North Carolina and then were playing in the biggest game in Assembly Hall in years. Plus, that loss to Vandy in the SEC final woke these Cats up. They roll in this one so give the points. And take the under.
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