Wisconsin Badgers vs. Kentucky Wildcats Free NCAA Picks with Odds & Predictions
by Robert Ferringo - 4/3/2014
When it comes to the NCAA Tournament, the public loves a Cinderella story. There is really nothing like a low-seeded team defying the odds, winning one thrilling game after another and busting brackets en route to an improbable run to the Final Four.
So how about those scrappy Kentucky Wildcats, eh? Nobody saw this bunch of upstarts coming, did they?
No. 8 seeded Kentucky will take on Wisconsin at 9 p.m. on Saturday at the Final Four in Dallas. The bluebloods from Kentucky are hardly an underdog – they are, in fact, favored in this game – and they aren’t upstarts. But they are a somewhat surprising addition to the national semifinals.
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The winner will advance to the National Championship Game to face the victor of the other semifinal between Connecticut and Florida.
Wisconsin vs. Kentucky Betting Story Lines
Kentucky began the season ranked No. 1 in the country and was touted as having the Greatest Recruiting Class of All Time. Of course, both of those claims were absolutely hysterical as the Wildcats were neither the best team in the country nor the top crop of freshmen in college hoops history.
This type of hype and hoopla is nothing new to this Kentucky program. They were a consensus Top 10 team going into last season. They didn’t even make the NCAA Tournament, instead suffering the indignity of a first-round home loss to Robert Morris in the NIT.
John Calipari shuffled his one-and-done deck yet again, bringing in five highly-touted freshmen to carry the load for the Wildcats. Twins Aaron and Andrew Harrison start in the backcourt next to wing James Young. But the real strength of this team is in the dual post powers of Julius Randle and Dakari Johnson.
The Wildcats don’t have a starter shorter than 6-foot-6, and their only real bench player is 6-foot-8. But being physically overmatched is nothing new to the less-athletic Badgers.
Wisconsin’s strength is not in its physical prowess. Instead, the Badgers have advanced through precise offensive execution and a relentless shooting barrage that can produce points with ruthless efficiency. Wisconsin is ranked No. 4 in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted offensive efficiency, and they are No. 2 in the country in offensive turnover rate. They shoot 46 percent from the field, 37.5 percent from 3-point land and 74.1 percent from the free throw line, giving them a complete and versatile offensive approach.
The key to Wisconsin’s attack is seven-foot big man Frank Kaminsky. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan’s offensive philosophy revolves around the idea of inverted posts. That means that Ryan likes to work his smaller guards in the post while bringing his big men out on the perimeter. Kaminsky is the perfect weapon, capable of scoring in the paint (as his 52.7 field goal percentage attests) or knocking down shots from behind the arc (he shoots 37.8 percent from 3-point range).
It will be interesting to see how Kentucky guards Kaminsky, who will no doubt be the focus of their scouting report this week. However, I feel like Wisconsin’s fortunes will be determined less by the play of their versatile big man and more by how their trio of guards – Traevon Jackson, Ben Brust, and Josh Gasser – shoots the ball this weekend.
The Badgers faced more physically-imposing opponents in Oregon, Baylor and Arizona so far in the NCAA Tournament. They dispatched all three while managing a plus-7 rebounding differential.
Prior to the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats had lost to just about every good team they had played: Michigan State, Baylor, North Carolina, and Florida three times. Wisconsin, on the other hand, not only beat Florida but also beat Michigan State and the East’s No. 1 seed, Virginia, already this season.
The Badgers have the edge in experience as Kentucky is literally the least experienced of 351 Division I college basketball programs. The Badgers are the more efficient team on both ends of the court. But Kentucky has talent and raw power on its side. And I suspect that the Wildcats will also enjoy a boost from the crowd as I expect rabid Kentucky fans to travel down to Dallas in force to support ol’ UK.
Wisconsin vs. Kentucky NCAA Betting Odds and Key Trends
Kentucky is a slim 1.5-point favorite in this game, according to Bookmaker, and nearly 70 percent of the action in this game is coming down on the Wildcats. The total is set at 140.0, and the moneyline is set at -130 for Kentucky and +110 for Wisconsin.
Kentucky has covered the spread in each of its last five NCAA Tournament games, including all four of its contests this year. The Wildcats are 7-1-1 ATS against teams from the Big Ten and 7-0 ATS in their last seven games overall, each of which has been played on a neutral court.
Wisconsin has covered each of its four NCAA Tournament games this year, and they are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 nonconference games. The “under” has gone 8-3 in Wisconsin’s last 11 games on a neutral site and 5-1 in Wisconsin’s last six games against teams from the SEC.
Wisconsin vs. Kentucky Free NCAA Picks and Betting Predictions
I think you have to side with the Wildcats in this game. The deeper you get into the NCAA Tournament, the more you need to side with talent. Generally my philosophy for finding a National Champion is to tab the team with the most NBA-caliber players and ride them through the bracket. There is no doubt that the Wildcats top the Badgers in that category.
Wisconsin is going to make some shots, and I don’t expect them to shrink from the occasion. But Kentucky was able to handle a similarly-constructed Michigan team. The Wildcats will do what they did in that game against the Wolverines: pressure the perimeter shooters on defense and relentlessly pound the ball into the paint on offense. I have a feeling that this game won’t be all that close, and I can see Kentucky winning this one going away.
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