UAB Blazers vs. Kentucky Wildcats Pick 11/29/19
UAB Blazers (4-1 SU, 1-4 ATS) vs. Kentucky Wildcats (5-1 SU, 3-3 ATS)
When: Friday, November 29, 7 p.m. EST
Where: Rupp Arena, Lexington, Ky.
Point Spread: UAB +21/UK -21 (Intertops)
Total: O/U 128
Last Time Out:
UAB beat Lamar 57-48 on Tuesday; Kentucky beat Lamar 81-56 on Sunday.
Scouting the Blazers:
Good luck trying to get a read on UAB in the early going, because this is not a team with one defined star that opponents have to stop. This is the proverbial Bob Lake team that doesn’t have two guys that can score 25 points but instead has five guys who can each score 10. UAB has been led by a different player in scoring in all five games it has played this season, simply riding the hot hand and taking what the defense is willing to allow.
Tavin Lovan is the closest thing UAB has to a star and statistical leader, and at 13.2 points a game, his numbers aren’t really what you’d expect from that type of player. Instead, this UAB squad doesn’t try to play too fast, knows its identity, and doesn’t get caught up in doing what it isn’t great at doing. The Blazers know that when they play their game, they can really frustrate their opponents, and if that’s the way they pick up a win, that’s fine by them.
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Scouting the Wildcats:
Kentucky just can’t get any kind of momentum going. Every time the Wildcats try to put things together, another player goes down with a serious injury. This time it’s forward Nate Sestina, who fractured his left wrist and is out for at least a month. The Wildcats want him ready for SEC play, but in the short term, they might suffer as they try to get their younger players to play a greater role.
The one thing that Big Blue Nation has been able to count on from this group of freshmen is that they can play defense. Kentucky might not be scoring at anywhere close to the clips of past Wildcat teams, nor do they rebound it as well as Calipari teams have been known to do in recent years. But the Wildcats do play tough defense, as they’ve held five of their six opponents this season to fewer than 70 points.
When Kentucky does have the ball, look for Tyrese Maxey to do most of the damage. Maxey has been the rare freshman who’s been ready from the word go and has the ability to hit deep shots. He earned a name for himself by hitting big shots against Michigan State, and he’ll combine for a first-rate backcourt with point guard Ashton Hagans when both are at full strength.
Injuries. How does Kentucky respond after losing yet another player to injury? The Wildcats have six players on the shelf at the moment, and that makes for anything but an ideal situation for the early part of the season. This will pay off for the Wildcats in the long run because they’ll have faced more than their share of adversity, but for the moment, it leaves Kentucky vulnerable and prevents Calipari from getting to play the way that he really wants to play.
UAB will Cover if:
The Blazers can get the job done on the glass. Kentucky is not a great shooting team as it is, and in contrary to Calipari’s recent teams, this one is not particularly designed to be dominant on the boards. The Wildcats are a smaller, quicker team that can hurt you in many other ways, but one of those ways is not rebounding prowess. The Blazers can board, and extending possessions is the best way to neutralize the talent advantage.
Kentucky will Cover if:
The Wildcats can force the Blazers into mistakes. UAB does not take care of the basketball well, and that is never a good thing when you play Kentucky. The Wildcats can punish mistakes because of their athleticism, which UAB has no answer for. If the Blazers make bad decisions, this will not be a close game.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread:
If this were played on paper, Kentucky would be a lock. But games are not played on paper, and on the floor, Kentucky is not itself right now. The Wildcats are still a good team, but they are not a great one, and they’re not the type of team that they’re going to be in March. Even if they were, UAB has shown an ability to beat some of the teams on Kentucky’s schedule, having bested Lamar and Mount Saint Mary’s. Kentucky didn’t beat either of those teams by gigantic margins, which suggests UAB is better than the public thinks it is.
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