Hartford Hawks vs. Kentucky Wildcats Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Hartford Hawks (2-9 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (13-0 SU, 5-6 ATS), 7:00 p.m. EST, Tuesday, December 29, 2009, Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky. TV: ESPN2
by Ryno of Predictem.com

Point Spread: No line as of 2:38PM EST
Over/Under: N/A

The Kentucky Wildcats are undefeated at 13-0 and ranked No. 3 in the country. That likely won’t change when they host the Hartford Hawks at Rupp Arena on Tuesday night.

Under new head coach John Calipari, Kentucky is led by super freshman point guard John Wall and fellow stars DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson. Although he is only a freshman, Wall (17.9 ppg, 6.8 apg, 2.5 spg, 52.2 field goal pct, 44.4 3-pt pct, 81.9 free throw pct) is a front-runner for National Player of the Year. The 6-foot-4 guard is incredibly athletic and fast. He can slice through any defense and set up his teammates for easy shots. He also has single-handedly saved Kentucky from some losses. He hit clutch shots down the stretch to win games against Miami of Ohio, Stanford, North Carolina and Kentucky.

Since a rocky start to the season and a couple of last-second victories over North Carolina and Kentucky, the Wildcats have settled down with some easy victories over the past few weeks over Indiana, Austin Peay and Drexel.

But in their last game, the Wildcats had trouble at home with Long Beach State. The game was tied at 37 at the half, but Kentucky was able to run away with a 13-point victory in the second half. The Wildcats did just fine offensively. They committed only nine turnovers for the game, shot 45 percent from the field, shot 22-for-30 at the free throw line, and out-rebounded Long Beach State 44-35. The only thing offensively that Kentucky didn’t do well was shoot 3-pointers, where they were 6-for-19. But the problem was on the defensive end. The 49ers were 8-for-18 from beyond the arc and Kentucky only forced 12 turnovers. The Wildcats allowed 49ers forward T.J. Robinson to grab 15 rebounds, seven of which were on the offensive end, giving Long Beach State some extra opportunities to score baskets.

Kentucky has scored at least 72 points in every game this season other than the games against North Carolina and Connecticut. The Wildcats have only given up more than 73 points once this season, in a 102-92 win over Sam Houston State.

Hartford is 2-9 this season but the Hawks have a few close losses that could easily have given them a few more wins. Their only two wins this season are over Bowling Green and Fordham, teams with RPI’s of 346 (out of 347) and 273, respectively. All but one of Hartford’s losses have been by 13 points or less, including four losses by four points or less to Baylor, Yale, Lafayette and St. Francis of New York. The Hawks have an 0-7 mark on the road this season but they have plenty of experience playing at quality opponents, with losses at Baylor, Seton Hall and La Salle.

Joe Zeglinski leads Hartford in scoring with 15.6 points per game. He is shooting about 39 percent from beyond the arc and averaging more than nine 3-point attempts per game. Second-leading scorer Morgan Sabia is averaging 12.6 points per game, shooting 45 percent from beyond the arc, and averaging more than five 3-point attempts per game.

Kentucky is 1-4 ATS in its last five home games but 4-1 ATS in its last five games following an ATS loss. The Wildcats are 2-6 ATS in their last eight home games against teams with a losing road record. The total has gone over in each of Kentucky’s last four games. The over is 5-2 in Kentucky’s last seven home games against teams with a losing road record. This is Hartford’s first lined game of the season.

The key for Hartford to stay in this game will be how well they shoot 3-pointers. Zeglinski and Sabia live and die off 3-pointers and both are capable of getting hot if Kentucky doesn’t defend them well. The Wildcats are not very good at defending 3-pointers, allowing opponents to shoot 35.8 percent from beyond the arc, while the Hawks are making 38.2 percent of their 3-point attempts.

Ryno’s Pick: Hartford is not a team that will be rattled to play a top five team in Rupp Arena. The Hawks have faced some quality teams this season and have played a lot of games on the road. And Kentucky has been a team that has allowed mediocre mid-major teams to keep it close for a while, such as Miami of Ohio, Sam Houston State, Morehead State and Long Beach State. If Hartford plays its game and shoots well from beyond the arc, this game could be much closer than Kentucky wants it to be. There is no line yet, but it will undoubtedly be showing no respect for Hartford. Take them plus the points if and when a line comes out.