If I had told you that Kentucky and Auburn were playing on Feb. 14 with one school looking to take a step closer to the SEC regular-season title, you would have surely thought I was talking about the Wildcats. Nope, it’s the No. 10 Tigers who are the SEC’s best team right now and home NCAAB odds favorites against now-unranked Kentucky.
Kentucky at Auburn NCAAB Odds & Expert Prediction – February 14th
Adversity = opportunity pic.twitter.com/Ema2wXWGgn
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) February 13, 2018
When: Wednesday, 9 PM ET
Where: Auburn Arena, Ala.
Radio: 630 AM WLAP(Kentucky) / WTGZ 93.9 FM (Auburn)
Opening NCAAB Odds: Auburn -8.5
Kentucky throttled Auburn last year in the lone meeting 92-72 – but that UK team was much better than this one and this Auburn team is much better than last year’s. Malik Monk made four of Kentucky’s 11 3-pointers and finished with 24 points. He’s in the NBA now. The physical matchup included 49 fouls between the two teams. Kentucky connected on just 17 of 32 free throws, compared to 5 for 15 at the line for Auburn.
Auburn has dropped 19 of its last 20 games against Kentucky.
Why Bet on Kentucky?
The Cats (17-8) are on a very rare three-game losing streak, fell out of the Top 25 again this week and have no chance at the SEC regular-season title. On Saturday, UK was outclassed at Texas A&M, 85-74. Kentucky led 30-26 at halftime, but the Aggies made 11 of their first 16 shots in the second half to take a 14-point lead. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led Kentucky with 19 points. Alexander has averaged 19.75 points over the last four games.
Kentucky, which trailed by as much as 23 points, showed some late fight to cut the deficit back to single digits. “I’m not cracking,” Coach John Calipari said moments after the Wildcats lost a third straight game for the first time in his tenure. “This doesn’t faze me. … We play for March.”
Who Has Remained Constantly in the Lineup?
Touted redshirt freshman guard Hamidou Diallo has remained in Calipari’s starting lineup, but his minutes have declined. His overall per game stats: 26.9 minutes, 11.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 43 percent field goal, 31 percent 3-point. His SEC per game stats: 25.3 minutes, 7.7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 37 percent field goal, 21 percent 3-point.
Two other freshmen are having issues. Nick Richards, 6-foot-11, has played 14 minutes or less in four of Kentucky’s last six games. He has produced one double-digit rebound game all season. PJ Washington grabbed eight rebounds in UK’s loss at Texas A&M, but he scored just five points. It was the fifth straight game the 6-7 freshman has failed to reach double figures.
UK is 42-11 in “bounce back” games (following losses) under Calipari.
- Average Score For: 76
- Field Goals: 46.58%
- Three Points: 33.33%
- Free Throws: 68.70%
- Rebounds: 38.92
- Average Score Against: 70.52
- Field Goals:
- Three Points:
- Free Throws: 68.39
Why Bet on Auburn?
The Tigers (22-3) have a two-game lead atop the SEC. They are off a 78-61 win at Georgia on Saturday. It wasn’t until 30 minutes before tip that Auburn announced that it would be without the services of Bryce Brown, the team’s leading scorer and arguably best defender, because of a shoulder strain he suffered in the first half of Wednesday’s loss to Texas A&M.
Jared Harper stepped up in a major way with 24 points and seven assists, and fellow backcourt mate Mustapha Heron scored 19 points on 8 of 14 shooting. Heron, who scored 28 points in the Texas A&M game, is averaging 21.4 points per game over his last five games. Malik Dunbar, who got the start in place of Brown, played 24 minutes and finished with seven points and six rebounds.
The Tigers, who don’t start a single player taller than 6-foot-7, were tested again Saturday against a Georgia team that features three players 6-foot-8 or taller in their starting lineup. But when the clock hit zero, it was Auburn who won the rebounding edge (31-27) and the battle for points in the paint (30-26).
What’s the Average Player Size?
Auburn is very small. Coach Pearl doesn’t start anyone over 6-foot-7. With 6-11 center Austin Wiley ineligible for the season, there’s not an available player on the roster taller than 6-9. Auburn wins with its smalls, not its bigs.
Brown, meanwhile, is looking good to play in the biggest Auburn home game in years. Brown, who traveled to Athens, leads the Tigers with 16.6 points per game this season. With Brown, Harper and Heron, Auburn is the best three-point shooting team in the league, hitting 40.6 percent of its triples in conference games. Meanwhile, UK is the SEC’s best at defending the three, holding opponents to just 26.1 percent in league play.
Having one of the best point guards in the SEC in Harper has enabled Auburn to lower its turnovers to the fewest of the Pearl era. Auburn is averaging 12.4 turnovers per game, which is down from 13.6 last season and lower than the 12.9 of 2014-15, the best in the four seasons under Pearl. Auburn is also averaging 15.1 assists per game, 3rd in the SEC and 93rd nationally, with Harper accounting for 6.0 assists per game himself.
- Average Score For: 85.48
- Field Goals: 45.77%
- Three Points: 38.98%
- Free Throws: 77.74%
- Rebounds: 38.20
- Average Score Against: 72.44
- Field Goals:
- Three Points:
- Free Throws: 74.58
Latest NCAAB Odds Trends
- Kentucky is 1-4 ATS in the last 5 games
- Kentucky is 15-7 SU in the last 22 games
- The total went OVER in 4 of Kentucky’s last 6 games
- Auburn is 6-1 ATS in the last 7 games
- Auburn is 20-2 SU in the last 22 games
- The total went OVER in 4 of Auburn’s last 6 games
Expert NCAAB Betting Prediction
Auburn probably wins the game, but it will be close. Take those points.