Western Kentucky vs. Eastern Kentucky Odds, Picks: How to Bet ‘The Battle of the Bluegrass’
Photo by Andrew Dieb/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Rick Stansbury (Western Kentucky)
Western Kentucky vs. Eastern Kentucky Odds
The 161st edition of "The Battle of the Bluegrass" will take place on Thursday night as the Hilltoppers open up their season at EKU in Alumni Coliseum.
The Colonels began their season with a convincing 137-52 victory over Miami (OH)-Middletown on Monday, a win that saw seven different players score in double digits for the Colonels.
Thursday's matchup will be even more significant than it already is, as EKU is set to highlight 60 seasons played at Alumni Coliseum. The arena is set to undergo a complete renovation following this season.
WKU holds a commanding lead in the all-time series (116-44), however, EKU gave the Hilltoppers all they could handle in Diddle Arena a season ago (85-80 in favor of WKU).
Western was picked by C-USA coaches to finish second in the league and ranks more than 150 spots ahead of EKU. But don't overlook the Colonels. This is anything but an easy start to a season with high expectations for Western.
The Hilltoppers return four starters from a season ago, as well as 70% of their scoring, 70% of their rebounding and 84% of their shots blocked.
Large portions of those returning rebounds and blocks came into question when C-USA Defensive Player of the Year Jamarion Sharp looked into the transfer portal. Fortunately for Western, the tallest player in Division I basketball decided to return to the Hill.
Joining a solid group of returnees is Dontaie Allen (Kentucky), who gives head coach Rick Stansbury a familiar name in the Bluegrass.
Emmanuel Akot, who played at Boise State a season ago, also joins Western and is already drawing a considerable amount of hype after being named to the Preseason All-Conference team alongside Sharp and Dayvion McKnight.
Stansbury has performed beyond expectations during his time at Western, posting an all-time record of 122-73. Unfortunately, that coveted ticket to the Big Dance has always eluded him despite playing for the three conference championships.
This year's squad could very well be the best Stansbury's ever had, but are the Hilltoppers good enough to take him all the way?
Yes, Eastern Kentucky played a mid-major extension college in its first game, but putting up 137 points is impressive — I don't care if you played the YMCA 15 and under team.
The Colonels dealt with too many injuries to count a season ago, but now return three starters that could really allow them to make some noise in the ASUN if they stay healthy.
EKU also brings in one of its most talented recruiting classes ever, including its first-ever four-star freshman recruit in Leland Walker.
Via the transfer portal, EKU adds Dardan Kapiti, who has gotten noticeably stronger since his time with the FAU Owls and could very well have a breakout season.
The Colonels also add Isaiah Cozart, who previously played for Western and was recruited by EKU out of high school when he was the Kentucky Gatorade Player of the Year.
Western Kentucky vs. Eastern Kentucky Betting Pick
Both of these teams will likely look to push the pace in this game. Western finished 96th nationally in Adjusted Tempo a season ago, but the Colonels will be the true driving force.
Head coach A.W Hamilton has made pace of play a pillar of Colonels basketball. EKU has finished top-25 in every season when it comes to Adjusted Tempo since he took over.
Pair that with how well both of these teams have been known to score, and it leads me to believe this will be a high-scoring affair. And while this is a rivalry already, expect this matchup to be even more closely contended.
Both teams feature multiple previous Kentucky Mr. Basketball award winners, few of which actually had a chance to play against each other. Of course, they want to win the game, but the bragging rights that come with proving yourself the best of the group only further drives the competition.
I am confident taking the over here at any number 160 or better.