Kentucky vs. Gonzaga Odds, Picks: How to Bet Top-5 Showdown
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: John Calipari (Kentucky)
Kentucky vs. Gonzaga Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Gonzaga and Michigan State played on an aircraft carrier in San Diego.
Kentucky and Michigan State played on a neutral floor in Indianapolis.
Yet this feels like a bigger and more exciting game.
Kentucky and Gonzaga scheduled a home-and-home series, with the back end of this series happening in Lexington next season. It represents the first time a major college basketball program has recognized a mid-major program as a reputable home-and-home opponent.
Even if it is the fake mid-major Gonzaga, I still see it as a significant development.
But setting aside the larger storylines, which team has the edge in this game? And how should bettors attack this matchup?
After dropping a first-round NCAA tournament game to Saint Peter's, how has Kentucky fared in its revenge season?
Not great, in my opinion.
Dominant wins over Howard, Duquesne and South Carolina State mean nothing after the loss to Michigan State. Kentucky had a 76.8% chance to win in double overtime, per KenPom, and threw the game away.
However, reigning National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe was on a pitch count. So, at least John Calipari and Co. have an excuse.
I make that comment tongue-in-cheek. Michigan State boasts a wildly underrated team, and Kentucky still has a top-five roster.
But how do the Wildcats match up with Gonzaga?
I would argue they match up very well in the backcourt. CJ Fredrick is averaging 14 points per game through three outings, and Sahvir Wheeler is dishing out almost 10 assists a night.
Meanwhile, Cason Wallace and Antonio Reeves are playing elite 3-and-D basketball. Jacob Toppin is doing his part on the wing, too.
Wallace might be the X-factor. He picked up eight steals against Michigan State, hounding the Spartans' offense and punishing their defense.
Cason Wallace showed why he's a projected lottery pick and one of the best defenders in college basketball in the Champions Classic, posting 8 steals to go along with 14 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Put the clamps on and did a lot of little things on both ends. pic.twitter.com/0LfQwgrGBh
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) November 16, 2022
Kentucky might also match up well in the frontcourt. But that requires a healthy Tshiebwe and a better rebounding effort from the entire roster.
So far, rebounding has been an issue for the Cats. They allowed 16 offensive rebounds to Sparty and rank among the bottom SEC teams in OR% and DR%.
Image credit: CBB Analytics
Calipari needs to whip his team into shape on the glass, especially against Gonzaga, the fourth-best rebounding team in the nation last season by per-game margin (+8.5).
However, the Bulldogs look significantly weaker in the frontcourt.
The loss of Chet Holmgren is indescribable. His rim protection provided flexibility on defense, and his shooting ability provided spacing on offense, specifically allowing Drew Timme to work one-on-one on the interior.
LSU transfer Efton Reid III is an OK college basketball big man with the frame to replace Holmgren. However, he doesn't have the two-way skillset to make up for the loss of Holmgren, and that's already evident.
Mady Sissoko bullied Gonzaga. And Texas overwhelmed Gonzaga by shooting 21-for-33 (63.6%) inside the arc.
Moreover, Texas' backcourt was surprisingly dominant. Texas finished that game with 17 assists and 10 turnovers, while Gonzaga finished with 10 assists and 20 turnovers.
So, it's clear that Gonzaga's backcourt is still young and inexperienced. The Bulldogs are missing Andrew Nembhard severely, as Chattanooga transfer Malachi Smith isn't integrated yet, and sophomore Nolan Hickman is struggling to step up into the spotlight.
Gonzaga might be 2-1 SU, but the Bulldogs are 1-2 ATS. It's a flawed basketball team, at least early in this season.
However, Timme is still elite (20.7 PPG, 8.0 RPG), and the Zags are shooting 58.3% from 2-point range behind him. The Mark Few offense can still create points in various ways, whether in transition or from all three levels in the halfcourt.
As you can see, Gonzaga has had no issues scoring at the rim:
Image credit: CBB Analytics
However, it's worth mentioning, the Zags are currently scoring just .927 PPP in transition, which ranks in the 28th percentile of teams this year.
Kentucky vs. Gonzaga Betting Pick
At the time of writing, Kentucky is a three-point underdog to Gonzaga.
The Bulldogs should be one-point favorites, even factoring in the home-court advantage.
Again, the Zags are undersized in the frontcourt and inexperienced in the backcourt. The Bulldogs have had issues with turnovers on offense and rim protection on defense.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats have an athletic and frisky backcourt coupled with Tshiebwe in the frontcourt. The more experienced Wheeler should be a menace against the less-experienced Hickman and Smith, while Tshiebwe should neutralize Timme.
Plus, Kentucky might be undervalued from a public perspective.
The Bulldogs beat Michigan State, but could've easily lost that game, especially after Sparty shot only 3-for-16 from deep. Meanwhile, the Wildcats likely should've beaten Sparty, only losing to them in overtime after Tshiebwe fouled out.
I'll happily bet Kentucky as underdogs if we catch two or more points.