Kentucky vs. Tennessee Spread Pick 2/20/21
Kentucky Wildcats (7-13 SU, 5-13-2 ATS) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (15-5 SU, 11-9 ATS)
When: Saturday, February 20, 1 p.m.
Where: Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, Tenn.
Point Spread: UK +7.5/TENN -7.5 (MyBookie - Deposit $100 and get $100 FREE when you sign up through our link and use promo code PREDICT100)
Last Time Out:
Kentucky edged Vanderbilt 82-78; Tennessee handled South Carolina 93-73.
About the Matchup:
This might be a lost season for Kentucky, but the Wildcats are at least still playing with enthusi-asm and hope. Kentucky’s only shot at the postseason is to have the SEC play its tournament and then steal the automatic bid, and with back-to-back wins under their belts, they’re at least sug-gesting that they can make a run in the SEC tournament if they get the right draw.
But beating Tennessee is a significant step up from beating Vanderbilt and Auburn, neither of whom are likely in the mix for an NCAA tournament bid. Tennessee, on the other hand, will al-most surely be an NCAA team and is likely looking at a top-four seed if the Volunteers continue to string together wins. The Volunteers have been an aggravating team for bettors this season because you never know whether Tennessee is going to have a successful shooting night or struggle to reach 55 points. What you do know is that Tennessee is going to play fierce defense most nights, and if a team isn’t ready for that challenge, it’s going to be a long night for their opponent.
Scouting the Wildcats:
Kentucky still can’t shake the public’s trust, even as the season slips further away from John Calipari’s grasp. Unlike Duke, which has mostly been able to beat up on bad teams, Kentucky has really struggled across the board in the SEC (and outside of it, if we’re honest), but the pub-lic just cannot get rid of the idea of the name Kentucky being that of a good basketball team.
The big problem for the Wildcats is that they really can’t shoot all that well. The loss to Tennes-see was a typical defeat for Kentucky, as the Wildcats shot just 38.5 percent from the floor and couldn’t take advantage of Tennessee’s lull through the first 30 minutes of the game. The Wild-cats did do a nice job of getting John Fulkerson on the bench with foul trouble, but when you shoot as poorly as the Wildcats did, it really doesn’t matter how well you play defense. For Ken-tucky to get a win here, Brandon Boston has to shoot a lot better than 2-for-11 from the field.
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Scouting the Volunteers:
The interior attack was basically cut off for Tennessee in the first meeting with Kentucky, so the Volunteers went in the other direction and fired at will from the guards. The strategy worked perfectly in the second half and fueled Tennessee’s comeback, as Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer ended up combining for 50 of Tennessee’s 82 points in the win.
But that said, that probably isn’t going to work a second time. Tennessee needs to get John Fulkerson involved early and often if it’s going to be a championship contender, and that means he can’t pick up as many cheap fouls as he did against the Wildcats in Lexington. On the one hand, it’s impressive that the Volunteers were able to get a win while getting four points total from their frontcourt players, but on the other side of the coin, Tennessee has to get something from the inside if it’s going to beat better teams than Kentucky.
Rebounding. These teams are likely to miss a lot of shots, and that could work to Ten-nessee’s advantage in a big way if the Volunteers are able to keep Fulkerson on the floor. The forward managed to grab three rebounds in his 10 minutes on the floor, which showed just how much of a factor he can be if he’s actually able to stay on the court.
Kentucky still managed to lose the rebounding battle in the first game even without Fulkerson on the court, which could mean a ton of second-chance points for the Volunteers if he’s able to make himself a factor. The Wildcats either have to hit more shots or do a better job on the glass to avoid disaster.
Kentucky will Cover If:
The Wildcats can hit more shots. There’s really not much more I can say here because that’s the only thing Kentucky can do to improve on the first meeting against Ten-nessee. The Volunteers likely won’t turn the ball over the way Auburn did, and Tennessee is like-ly to be a lot stronger on the boards with Fulkerson on the floor. Kentucky’s got to start hitting.
Tennessee will Cover If:
The Volunteers can keep Fulkerson on the floor. Tennessee can push Kentucky around inside if the big man can stay out of foul trouble, and I think that’s exactly what he’s going to do this time around. I’ve got a hard time believing that Kentucky’s ability to get Fulkerson in foul trouble will work a second time; I think Rick Barnes has likely figured out a way to keep his forward in action.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
I just can’t see Tennessee giving this up at home. The Volunteers are back to playing the way they’re capable of, and the Wildcats are simply not that good of a team in 2021. Poor shooting teams tend to be even worse shooting teams than usual against Tennessee, and Kentucky’s shooting is a royal mess this season.
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