Tennessee Volunteers vs. Kentucky Wildcats
Tennessee Volunteers (28-4 SU, 16-14-1 ATS) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (27-5 SU, 17-15 ATS)
When: Friday, March 15, 2019 – 3:00 p.m. ET
Where: Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tennessee
Point Spread: TENN +1 / UK -1 (MyBookie Sportsbook)
Total: O/U 141.5
Last Time Out: Tennessee beat Mississippi State in the SEC quarterfinals 83-76; Kentucky blew out Alabama in the SEC quarterfinals 73-55
Scouting the Volunteers:
There is no questioning that the Volunteers have already had an incredible year. With how they started in SEC play, they were looking unbeatable. However, some hiccups in the final few games brought them back to reality, and they now know what must be done. Look for the Vols to give the Cats everything they can handle today to hopefully prove to the committee they are one of the best 4 teams in the country.
Scouting the Wildcats:
No matter how the Wildcats finish in the SEC regular season, they always seem to find a way to win the actual tournament title. The Wildcats are looking to repeat as SEC champs for the 5th straight year but will have to go through their biggest rival to do so. Depending on what some of the other conferences do, the Wildcats are still well within reach of a number 1-seed and the best way to earn it will be to win this tournament yet again.
Head to Head:
These teams split the two meetings this season, with each team winning in a blowout on their home floor. Even though they are playing in Nashville, Kentucky is likely going to have more fans at the game because of how well they are known to travel. Going back further than the two games this season, we see that these two teams are dead even at 5-5. However, this game will be played on a much larger stage with the chance to play for the SEC title on the line.
Notable Betting Trends:
Some trends to consider starts with the fact that Tennessee has the slightest edge in covering against the spread. The Vols are 6-4 ATS over these last 10 games with the Wildcats and are 3-2 in the previous five. Other trends show that both teams love to get up and down the court and score the ball at a high rate. When Tennessee scores 70 or more points, they have posted a record of 16-3. When Kentucky scores 70 or more points, they have a record of 22-4. When considering these trends, it is very possible this will be a shootout and whoever has the ball last will win this game.
The SEC Player of the Year, Grant Williams. First off, Grant Williams won consecutive SEC Player of the Year awards, a feat that has not been accomplished since 1993-1995 seasons, so it is safe to say this young man means a whole lot to his team. Williams is averaging 19.2 points per game to lead the team, while also averaging a team-high 1.2 steals per game and 7.6 rebounds per game. With the win in the quarterfinals, Williams has now scored 14 or more points in 8 straight games and has maintained a field goal percentage of 50% or higher in 7 of these 8 games. Specifically, in Lexington, Williams scored 16 points, but only shot the 4 times, which limited his production. In the game in Knoxville, he scored 24 points and shot 7 of 13. Now facing the Cats, a third time, Tennessee must do everything they can to get their playmaker the ball and not allow Kentucky to push him around.
Tennessee will Cover if:
They can limit the Wildcats three-point shooting. By no means is Kentucky a top three-point shooting team, but if you leave them open, they will hurt you from deep range. The Cats shot nearly 50% from three against the Tide, so the Vols need to make it a point of emphasis to close out on the shooters and force them inside the paint. They do that, and Tennessee will have an excellent chance to win.
Kentucky will Cover if:
They balance their scoring. The Wildcats have 4 different players who average at least 10 points or more. They had 4 players score in double-figures when they beat the Vols at home compared to just 1 player in double-figures when they played in Knoxville. This is basketball, of course, so guys are going to struggle, but it will be up to the rest of this talented roster to pick up the pace and make up for anybody who is having an off night. The key number for the Wildcats will be 3. If 3 different players can score at least 10 points or more, look for the Wildcats to return to the SEC Championship game.
Matt’s Pick for Tennessee vs. Kentucky
Unfortunately for the rest of the country, this game must be played in the semifinals, because what a game it would be if this was for the SEC title. Nonetheless, both teams are incredibly talented, but Tennessee has a touch more veterans than the Wildcats. Look for the Vols to finally dethrone Kentucky and move on to the SEC title game.