Ole Miss Rebels vs. Kentucky Wildcats Preview and Pick – Point Spread

Ole Miss Rebels (16-5 SU, 11-6 ATS) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (20-1 SU, 10-9 ATS), 7:00 p.m. EST, Tuesday, February 2, 2010, Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky. TV: ESPN
by Ryno of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Mississippi +11/Kentucky -11
Over/Under: 153

Kentucky enjoyed being No. 1 in the country for all of a week. After losing at South Carolina last Tuesday, the Wildcats bounced back well from their first loss of the season with an impressive 85-72 win at home over Vanderbilt on Saturday. Ole Miss was supposed to win its easier conference games leading up to its matchup with Kentucky, but instead the Rebels lost at home to Arkansas on Sunday, 80-73. The Wildcats try to get on the right track on the way back to No. 1, while Ole Miss tries to get a signature conference victory and get back on the right track itself.

Despite being ranked right now (No. 25 in one poll) and for much of the season, Ole Miss hasn’t really had many impressive victories this season. The Rebels got a neutral victory over Kansas State, but that was really their only impressive non-conference victory. Wins over Indiana and UTEP don’t really stand out at this point. In SEC play, they’ve beaten some of the weaker teams in the conference – Georgia, South Carolina, LSU and Auburn – but have lost to Mississippi State, Tennessee and Arkansas, two of which were at home.

In their loss to Arkansas on Sunday, Murphy Holloway had a monster game for the Rebels with 19 points and 17 rebounds. Chris Warren had 17 points, Eniel Polynice had 15 points, and Terrico White had a bad game with nine points on 3-of-14 shooting. The Rebels shot 38 percent from the field and 6-for-22 from 3-point range. Arkansas had more than double the amount of free throw attempts as the Rebels (27-13) and almost triple the amount of makes (23-9). They allowed Arkansas to shoot 48 percent from the field and the two starting big men for the Razorbacks to combine for 41 points and 17 rebounds. The Rebels’ starting center, DeAundre Cranston, had just two points and three rebounds while fouling out. They need much better production from their big men, especially against Kentucky, a team with a terrific starting frontcourt of DeMarcus Cousins and Patrick Patterson.

In Kentucky’s win over Vanderbilt on Saturday, the Wildcats had their best outside shooting game of the season, going 12-for-23. They also shot 44 percent from the field. They out-rebounded the Commodores by 18 but they committed 17 turnovers, something that must improve. Darnell Dodson, the team’s best outside threat, hit four 3-pointers, and Patterson – normally not an outside shooter – was 3-for-4 on 3-pointers. Starting guards John Wall and Eric Bledsoe each hit a pair of 3-pointers. Wall had 13 points and nine assists, but he also turned the ball over seven times. Cousins led the team with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Kentucky is holding teams to 38 percent shooting for the season and 39 percent in conference play. Its opponents are shooting 35 percent on 3-pointers overall and 31 percent in conference play. The Wildcats are out-rebounding teams by almost 10 boards per game for the season and almost six boards per game in conference play. Ole Miss is not a very good rebounding team, hovering around an even margin in conference play and for the season, so the Wildcats may take advantage of the Rebels’ lack of size and strength down low. The Rebels are holding teams to around 39 percent overall and 32 percent on 3-pointers for the season and in conference play. Both teams are around an even turnover margin in conference play, with Ole Miss turning the ball over less and Kentucky forcing more turnovers. Kentucky shoots better from the field than Ole Miss, but the Rebels are shooting better from 3-point range in conference play.

Ole Miss is 6-1 ATS in its last seven road games, 4-1 ATS in its last five games overall, and 11-4 ATS in its last 15 games following an ATS loss. Kentucky is 4-1 ATS in its last five games as a home favorite but 1-5 ATS in its last six games following an ATS win. The home team is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings between these teams, and Kentucky is also 5-2 ATS in its last seven games against Ole Miss. The under is 5-1-1 in the last seven meetings between these teams and 3-0-1 in the last four at Kentucky.

Ryno’s Pick: As exposed in the South Carolina loss, Kentucky is not quite as good as most people believe. Sure, the Wildcats have some great young players in Wall and Cousins, but they aren’t going to shoot 12-for-23 on 3-pointers, like they did against Vanderbilt on Saturday, against every team. They’re tough to beat at home but they aren’t that tough to compete with at home. Ole Miss is coming off a bad loss and thus has some solid value in this game. The Rebels would like to bounce back and earn a signature win, so expect them to play tough and keep it close. Take Mississippi +11.