NCAA Basketball South Carolina Gamecocks (14-12, 9-14 ATS) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (26-1, 14-11 ATS), Rupp Arena, Lexington, Tuesday, Feb. 25th, 9 PM Eastern, ESPN2
By Z-Man of Predictem.com
Point Spread: ‘Cats -16 1/2/Cocks +16 1/2
The once-beaten Kentucky Wildcats get a chance to avenge their only defeat of this season when they host Devan Downey and his South Carolina Gamecocks Thursday night.
Several online sportsbooks opened this game with Kentucky favored by 16 points, with a total of 145.
South Carolina opened this season 11-5, and 2-0 in SEC play. They’ve since lost seven of ten. Their highlight of the season, however, took place a month ago, when the Gamecocks handed Kentucky its only loss of the season so far, a 6862 decision in Columbia. But after losing at home to Tennessee Saturday 63-55, SC takes a three-game losing streak into Thursday’s game.
At 5-7 in conference play South Carolina looks headed for a first-round game in the upcoming SEC tournament, and nothing more than an NIT bid beyond that, unless they get hot.
Talent-laded Kentucky started 15-0 under new coach Pitino this season, and 4-0 in the SEC. But then they went cold for a night, and lost at South Carolina. They’ve since won seven straight, after pulling out a hard-earned 58-56 victory at Vandy last Saturday, with G John Wall sealing the deal with a great defensive play on a potential game-winning shot in the final seconds.
So at 11-1 in conference play the Wildcats sit two games clear of Vanderbilt in the SEC standings. They’ve already clinched a first-round bye for the SEC tournament in two weeks, and barring a collapse will be a No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
South Carolina is not one of the better shooting teams around. On the season the Gamecocks are shooting less than 42% from the floor, 33% from 3-point range and 65% from the free-throw line. Defensively the ‘Cocks are allowing opponents to shoot almost 45% from the field, and they’re getting outrebounded by 4.5 boards per game.
Kentucky, meanwhile, is shooting 48% from the floor, 36% from beyond the arc but only 67% from the stripe. At the other end of the floor the Wildcats are limiting foes to 38% FG shooting, and they’re outrebounding foes by a D1-best 9.8 per game.
And the ‘Cats have held their last five opponents to less than 40% FG shooting.
Offensively the ‘Cocks can be a bit of a one-man squad at times. Downey is averaging 23 PPG on the season, and nearly 28 PPG in conference play. He had 30 in SC’s earlier win over Kentucky, although he only shot 9/29 from the field. And on the season he’s only shooting 40% from the floor.
In that first meeting between these two teams earlier this season South Carolina held Kentucky to just 39% shooting from the floor, outrebounded the ‘Cats 40-38 and forced 15 UK turnovers in winning outright as seven-point home dogs.
South Carolina games have averaged 142 points this season, which is a little above this season’s D1 average of about 137 PPG. But because two-thirds of their games have been pegged with over/unders above 142, the Gamecocks are 7-15 on the totals.
The Wildcats are 13-11 on the totals, as their games have averaged 146 points.
The ‘Cocks are just 1-5 straight up and 2-4 ATS in SEC road games this season. They’re also just 3-7 ATS when getting points as underdogs.
Kentucky is 6-0 SU but only 3-3 ATS in SEC home games this season. And they’re 6-9 ATS overall as double-digit favorites.
Sagarin’s PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com rate the Wildcats at +9.9 over the Gamecocks. Adding on Sagarin’s CBB home-court advantage figure of 3.8, and Kentucky is about a 14-point favorite over South Carolina for Thursday’s game on the Sagarin line.
Z-Man’s Pick: I believe the UNDER 144.5 is the best betting option for this matchup.