Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Kentucky Wildcats Pick 12/21/19
Ohio State Buckeyes (10-1 SU, 9-2 ATS) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (8-2 SU, 4-6 ATS)
When: Saturday, December 21, 5:15 p.m.
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
Point Spread: OHST -3/UK +3 (GTBets)
Total: O/U 131.5
Last Time Out:
Ohio State routed Southeast Missouri State 80-49; Kentucky lost to Utah 69-66.
Scouting the Buckeyes:
Well, I guessed completely wrong about Ohio State’s trip to Minnesota, as I thought that the Buckeyes would bounce back from a rather weak defensive performance by their standards and put up a strong showing against the Gophers. Instead, Minnesota shot 54 percent and slammed the Buckeyes in their worst game of the year. Ohio State has since bounced back with a win over Southeast Missouri State, but I’m not exactly ready to say the Buckeyes made up for anything by beating a Redhawks squad that’s 3-8 and 0-6 away from home.
No, Ohio State is going to have to show that it can still play defense against a good opponent. The Buckeyes did it against the likes of Villanova and North Carolina, but the jury is out on Villanova, and North Carolina looks like it could be Roy Williams’ worst Tar Heel squad since it was the NIT runner-up in 2010. Ohio State has shown that it’s a very talented squad, but now the Buckeyes have to prove themselves again by showing that their No. 4-rated defense is no fluke. If they can do that and get Kaleb Wesson going, good things should follow.
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Scouting the Wildcats:
This Kentucky squad looks like it’s going to take a little longer to figure out which pieces go where. The Wildcats losing to Utah wasn’t nearly as bad as their loss to Evansville, but it’s another game that Kentucky had no business losing, and this one came because the Wildcats shot poorly from behind the arc. In the loss to the Utes, Kentucky was 2-for-17 from deep, a number that won’t get it done against most Ohio Valley Conference teams, let alone a squad like Ohio State.
One of the big problems for Kentucky as of late has been that Tyrese Maxey’s scoring has disappeared in the Wildcats’ most recent games. Other than the Utah game, Maxey scored a mere 15 points in the Wildcats’ previous three contests, and even though Kentucky ended up in the winning column in all three matches, Maxey has been the Wildcats’ third-leading scorer. Kentucky can’t afford to go without his contributions against this opponent.
Arena familiarity. Kentucky has already played a game at T-Mobile Arena in its loss to Utah, which could be an advantage in this matchup. In a neutral-site battle, such as in a conference tournament, it’s often seen as an advantage for a team to get a game in on the court before they face a tougher test. Granted, Kentucky managed to lose the first game at the arena, but the Wildcats also overcame a 17-point deficit in the process before taking a three-point defeat. If the Wildcats have that out of their system, that experience could help them.
Ohio State will Cover if:
The Buckeyes can control their turnovers. Ohio State coughed up the ball 21 times against Southeast Missouri State, but the Redhawks managed to convert a mere three points off of the turnovers, allowing the Buckeyes to roll past them despite playing nowhere near their best game. Ohio State can’t get away with that against Kentucky and hope to win, so the ball-handling has to be better if the Buckeyes are going to get another win over a Power 6 squad.
Kentucky will Cover if:
The Wildcats can get some good shots and actually get them to go down. Ohio State’s defense is reeling right now, and if the Wildcats can take advantage, this could be a chance for them to build up some badly-needed confidence while keeping the Buckeyes off-balance. Kentucky hasn’t been a great-shooting team this season, and if the Wildcats are going to get back to their usual standards, this is the kind of game that they’ve got to find a way to win.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
Kentucky has a history of doing some dumb things in the early season under John Calipari, but the Wildcats also have a history of stepping up their game when it really matters. This counts as one of those times, as Kentucky needs a win over a quality team to prove that they’re as good as people expected at the start of the season. The Wildcats should have an edge in that they’ve played in Vegas and haven’t had to travel since that game, while the Buckeyes are just getting past a turbulent week of finals. This one seems like a gamble, but I’ll take a shot with the Wildcats here because I’m just not sold on where the Buckeyes are as a team right now. Give me Kentucky.
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