Kentucky vs. Notre Dame Odds & Picks: Bet the Wildcats to Secure Big Win? (Saturday, December 11)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: John Calipari.
- Mike Brey and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish host John Calipari and the Kentucky Wilcats for a stellar college basketball matchup on Saturday.
- Kentucky is playing much different than it did at the beginning of last season, and the Wildcats are looking to be a legitimate threat.
- Check out Keg's betting breakdown for Saturday's college hoops showdown below.
Kentucky vs. Notre Dame Odds
-110o / -110u
|Notre Dame Odds|
-110o / -110u
Kentucky will venture to South Bend on Saturday for its first road game of the season. Kentucky may be 7-1, but its seven wins in a row since the opening loss have been the standard Calipari “tune-up games.”
The Wildcats’ best win came against Ohio, who rank 105th per KenPom. Notre Dame will serve as the first competitive opponent the Wildcats have faced since opening the season on a neutral court against Duke.
The Fighting Irish have played significantly more difficult teams to start the season, but they haven’t fared well against them. Notre Dame is 3-4 on the season, and its best win came against High Point at home, who ranks 255th per Kenpom.
Every Power Five team Notre Dame has played this season has beaten it by six points or more. Against the spread the Irish have been even worse. They are only 1-6 on the season, while also being 0-4 at home and 0-2 as an underdog.
In its last game, Notre Dame posted its first conference loss with an embarrassing 73-57 defeat to Boston College. The only place the Irish were truly able to find any success was at the free-throw line, going a perfect 7-for-7. Outside of tying for assists and turnovers, Boston College led Notre Dame in every other team stat.
With Kentucky dominating against bad teams and Notre Dame struggling against good teams, what factors can help us gauge how good these teams actually are and how they will match up?
The Wildcats have been one of the best in the country on offense, averaging 82.6 points per game. But like most of Kentucky’s numbers we will see, take them with a grain of salt.
These numbers result from seven home games, all of which have been played against inferior teams. However, one thing stands out, even with the competition the Wildcats have faced: three-point shooting.
Kentucky ranks 195th in the country from outside the arc, but this is one of the areas I think Kentucky will improve against the Irish. The Wildcats’ last two opponents were in the top 50 of three-point defense, while Notre Dame is one of the worst, ranking 356th and allowing opponents to hit at 44.3% from the perimeter.
Another undeniable area for the Wildcats has been their ability around the basket. Kentucky ranks first in the country in rebounds per game, second in offensive rebounds per game, and first in offensive rebounding percentage. This has primarily been due to Oscar Tshiebwe, who leads the nation in rebound average, offensive-rebound rate, and is second in defensive rebound rate. He’s recorded seven double-doubles in eight games this season.
Kentucky’s defense will likely be the biggest question on Saturday, currently ranked 40th in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency. It hasn’t seen an offense that ranks better than 89th in adjusted offensive efficiency since Duke; Notre Dame ranks 24th.
The Irish will be playing at home for the first time since November 16th, and it couldn’t come soon enough for a Notre Dame team that has gone 1-4 since then.
The most significant advantage for Notre Dame on Saturday may be that it is at home. As previously mentioned, Kentucky hasn’t played a road game yet. But it will also be the first marquee matchup of the season at home, and Laphonso Ellis will be added into the Ring of Honor during the game. Despite their recent performances, there should be no lack of Irish fans in attendance for this game.
But even though they’ve been losing games, there have been some bright spots for the Irish. One that could play the most significant factor for Notre Dame has been its ability to limit opponents’ offensive rebounds. Kentucky is one of the best in the country at rebounding, but the Irish rank 34th nationally in opponent offensive rebounds per game, limiting the competition to just 6.3.
The Irish have also been moderately better than the Wildcats in maintaining possession. Notre Dame has averaged just 11 turnovers per game, while Kentucky has posted an average of 12.9.
And while Kentucky averages six blocks per game, Irish opponents have only produced 2.2 per contest against them. Kentucky is a good team, but it is untested on the road. Notre Dame has more experience, a considerable edge in height as a whole, and a home-court advantage ranked 186th in Division I per Kenpom.
But will that be enough to stop the Wildcats?
Kentucky vs. Notre Dame Betting Pick
In short, no.
Kentucky has been playing some awful teams. There’s no doubt that their numbers are skewed because of it, but they are still a good team.
However, Notre Dame has lost to bad teams, most recently a 16-point loss at Boston College. Before it beat the Irish, Boston College hadn’t beat anyone ranked higher than 191st per KenPom.
And yes, it will be a challenging environment for many players on Kentucky who haven’t experienced that yet this year. But this isn’t the five freshman starters we’ve seen in the past from Kentucky, as only one starter for the Wildcats is a freshman.
What finally sold me on backing Kentucky here was the number. I expected Kentucky to open as roughly a six-point favorite. Any higher and I was fully prepared to take the Irish. Yet, here we are with the line opening with Kentucky as only a three-point favorite, and it has already moved up to 3.5.
I’m taking the Wildcats against a bad Notre Dame team, and I would bet them as high as -5.5.
Pick: Kentucky -3.5 (Play to -5.5)