North Carolina vs. Kentucky Odds & Picks: Bet the Wildcats on Saturday
Michael Hickey/Getty Images. Pictured: Terrence Clarke.
North Carolina vs. Kentucky Odds
|North Carolina Odds||-2.5 [BET NOW]|
|Kentucky Odds||+2.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-148 / +126 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||140.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Saturday, 2 p.m. ET|
Two of college basketball’s blue blood programs meet on Saturday in Cleveland, looking to get their seasons back on track.
North Carolina is coming off its worst season in over two decades. The Tar Heels stumbled in their two biggest tests of the year against Texas and Iowa, so the ship has not exactly been turned in the right direction for Roy Williams.
This will be a fantastic opportunity to pick off a down-on-its-luck Kentucky team and build some confidence heading into the ACC schedule.
For John Calipari, this is one of his worst starts as a head coach. The Wildcats sit at 1-4 and look lost on the offensive end of the floor.
Kentucky came into the season as the preseason favorite to win the SEC, but after the start it’s had, that looks more like a pipe dream. Can it end the skid against another struggling program on Saturday?
North Carolina Tar Heels
Despite the early-season loss, this North Carolina team is loaded with talent. Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks are a dynamic duo in the frontcourt, as both of them almost averaged a double-double last season. They pose a big-time matchup problem for Kentucky.
As far as the newcomers, freshman guard Caleb Love has taken over ball-handling duties for the Tar Heels. Love is ultra-talented and headed right for the NBA, as he possesses elite ability at both ends of the floor.
North Carolina also returns a highly-rated recruit from last year in Anthony Harris, who missed most of last season with a torn ACL. However, he has yet to play this season and will likely miss this game against Kentucky.
For North Carolina to right the ship, they really need to shoot the ball better.
Last season, the Tar Heels were 309th in effective field goal percentage and 306th in 3-point percentage. So far this season, they have only slightly improved those numbers, so if they are not able to knock down a high percentage of shots, Kentucky has a path to end its losing streak.
For what seems like the 20th straight year, Calipari has another loaded class of freshmen. Kentucky lost 94% of its scoring from the 2019-20 season, but Coach Cal is used to it at this point.
It has a dynamic backcourt with Brandon Boston Jr. (No. 7 overall recruit) and Terrence Clarke (No. 10). Not to mention Kentucky secured perhaps the No. 1 transfer on the market in Wake Forest’s Olivier Sarr. However, things have not gelled the way they were supposed to, and the Wildcats have lost four straight.
KenPom has Kentucky ranked in the top 15 in both offensive and defensive efficiency to begin the season. However, since then Kentucky has struggled on the offensive end of the floor, ranking 225th in effective field goal percentage and 297th in 3-point percentage.
The Wildcats can win most of their games this season based on pure talent and athleticism, but if they keep shooting the ball this poorly, they are going to have no shot at turning the season around.
For Kentucky to win on Saturday, it’s going to have to come at the defensive end of the floor.
The Wildcats rank 23rd in defensive efficiency and are holding their opponents to an effective field goal percentage of 45.7%. Since North Carolina struggles shooting the ball, the Wildcats could dominate on defense.
Betting Analysis & Pick
I think this line is a tad bit of an overreaction to Kentucky’s poor start. Both of these teams have struggled to shoot the ball, but both possess crazy amounts of talent, so it should be a fantastic matchup in Cleveland.
I only have North Carolina projected as a -1.41 favorite, so I think there is some value on the Wildcats at +3.5 to end their losing streak.
Pick: Kentucky +3.5 (down to +3).