NCAAB Pick: Tennessee -2 (-108) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)
The Tennessee Volunteers were the right choice for Wednesday’s NCAAB picks – and they still have value versus Kentucky this Saturday.
Remember, fans from the Volunteer State who want to wager on this game should check out our top-rated Tennessee betting sites.
Tennessee Volunteers vs. Kentucky Wildcats
Saturday, February 18, 2023 – 01:00 PM EST at Rupp Arena
It was obvious the Tennessee Volunteers had some betting value heading into Wednesday’s SEC matchup with the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide – even if the Vols were only a slight lean for our college basketball picks as 3-point home favorites.
Final score: Alabama 59, Tennessee 68.
Alas, they didn’t come anywhere close to going Over 143.5. But we don’t have to worry about the total for Saturday’s game between Tennessee (20-6 SU, 14-12 ATS) and the Kentucky Wildcats (17-9 SU, 11-14-1 ATS); we’re recommending the Vols again as 3-point road faves on the early overseas NCAAB odds lines, and nothing else.
That’s because the 133-point opening total is smack-dab in the middle of the projections we’re following here at the ranch.
They’ve got the Volunteers scoring 68-69 points, and the Wildcats around 64-65. But that does leave enough wiggle room for a small bet on Tennessee at this price.
Are the Volunteers Healthy Yet?
Not really. Neither guard Josiah-Jordan James (plus-8.1 BPM at Sports Reference) nor forward Julian Phillips (plus-6.6 BPM) suited up for Wednesday’s game against Alabama; both remain game-time decisions for Saturday according to head coach Rick Barnes.
Injuries are naturally more important in college basketball than college football, but this is still a coaches’ game, and Barnes has no shortage of arrows in his quiver.
Sophomore guard Jahmai Mashack (plus-5.6 BPM) stepped into the breach Wednesday and put the clamps on Alabama guard Brandon Miller, who scored just 15 points on 4-of-11 from the floor.
Granted, Mashack didn’t score any points at all in four attempts. He’s a one-dimensional defensive role player, but that dimension (plus-7.0 DBPM) is really, really good.
Mashack might even be the best defender on either side of this matinee affair.
And Are the Wildcats Healthy Yet?
Same same. They’ve got two starting guards in the sick bay: Sahvir Wheeler (plus-1.5 BPM), who’s still recovering from an ankle injury, and CJ Frederick (plus-1.6 BPM), who’s questionable with sore ribs. Both were absent for Wednesday’s 71-68 win over Mississippi State as 3-point road dogs.
You’d think given those low catch-all BPM numbers that Kentucky would be better off without them. The thing is, their replacements are also a pair of relatively one-dimensional players, neither as gifted at one thing as Mashack is for Tennessee:
- Adou Thiero (minus-0.2 OBPM, plus-4.2 DBPM)
- Antonio Reeves (plus-4.5 OBPM, minus-0.8 DBPM)
Head coach John Calipari prefers to use a three-guard lineup, so he still has point guard Cason Wallace (plus-8.0 BPM) running the show, but with Wallace unavailable, it’s Thiero who has to mop up those backup minutes at the 1-spot. Results have been mixed at best.
Didn’t Kentucky Beat Tennessee Last Time?
They sure did. On January 14, the Wildcats marched into Thompson-Boling Arena and upset the Volunteers 63-56 as 11-point puppies. Kentucky won the rebounding battle 43-23; forward Oscar Tshiebwe (plus-9.4 BPM) grabbed 13 boards, including four at the offensive end.
There are two big caveats from that result. First, the ‘Cats had Frederick in the lineup that day, although Wheeler was absent. Second, the Vols shot just 3-for-21 from behind the arc. That’s almost certainly not going to happen again this Saturday.
Let’s just say that Kentucky’s perimeter defense is not their strong suit. The Wildcats rank No. 40 overall (No. 16 offense, No. 101 defense) on Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency charts, and they’re No. 148 in the nation in 3-point percentage allowed at 33.1%.
At the other end of the court, Tennessee checks in at No. 4 overall (No. 55 offense, No. 1 defense) on the Pomeroy charts, and while they only shoot 32.7% (No. 263) from long distance, that would still give them an average of 6.9 made threes on 21 attempts – more than enough to beat Kentucky last time out.
What About the Bubble?
If you’re referring to the Tournament bubble, yes, Kentucky will have extra motivation to beat the Vols this Saturday: The Wildcats are one of Joe Lunardi’s “Last Four In” for his latest Bracketology report at ESPN. They’ve only got four more games after this before Champ Week, so a win here could seal their invitation to the Big Dance.
Then again, there’s a reason why the ‘Cats are on the bubble – and why they’ve been unprofitable against the spread this year.
Don’t be fooled by this blue-blooded program; this isn’t even close to being one of Calipari’s better teams, so bet accordingly, and may the sphere be with you.
NCAAB Pick: Tennessee -2 (-108) at BetOnline
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