College Basketball Odds, Picks, Predictions for Kentucky vs. Auburn (Saturday, Jan. 22)
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images. Pictured: KD Johnson.
- Kentucky travels south for a top-15 conference battle against Auburn on Saturday.
- The Tigers have been on a roll this season, reaching as high as No. 2 in the AP Top 25.
- With another solid opportunity Saturday, Jim Root explains Auburn is worth a bet.
Kentucky vs. Auburn Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
If you were looking for the biggest game on the Saturday slate, you have most certainly found it. Arguably the No. 1 team in the country, Auburn welcomes SEC powerhouse Kentucky to the Jungle.
Bruce Pearl has elevated the Tigers into the upper stratosphere of college hoops, earning a moment like this with consistent winning. It bears repeating: this Auburn squad has yet to lose a game in regulation.
Kentucky, meanwhile, enters on a high as well. The Wildcats have won eight of their last nine and have risen to fourth in KenPom’s rankings. And if you filter Bart Torvik’s rankings from the day after Kentucky lost at Notre Dame, Big Blue Nation checks in at No. 2.
Worth noting on that last stat — Auburn is No. 3 (only Gonzaga tops both). So yeah, this is a big one.
A matchup this seismic boasts all kinds of matchup nuances and personnel clashes. Let’s try to hit on the key ones.
Kentucky’s attack revolves around its dual-point guard system. TyTy Washington and Sahvir Wheeler have thrived together, and John Calipari has allowed this UK team to run, run, run.
Since arriving in Lexington, only two Calipari teams have had a shorter possession length, per KenPom. Those were led by speed demons John Wall and DeAaron Fox. The transition attack has allowed both Wheeler and Washington to blossom as creators and finishers.
Of course, that understates the importance of the world’s strongest Energizer bunny. Oscar Tshiebwe is a madman in the frontcourt, hunting rebounds with the zeal of a predator stalking its prey.
He leads the country in rebounding rate on both ends of the court. Plus, his mobility and tireless work ethic allow him to fit right into the up-tempo Wildcat attack.
Oh, and there’s Kellan Grady, the certified sniper whose efficiency has skyrocketed in a complementary role. The Davidson transfer was a marksman off screens at his prior stop, but he’s getting significantly more catch-and-shoot opportunities now
Built on a core of phenomenal newcomers, Auburn has become a two-way wrecking ball with real championship aspirations. The defense rivals LSU as the most disruptive in the country, and Auburn may have the best shot-blocker in the country in Walker Kessler.
Kessler has exploded after getting buried at North Carolina last season, leading the country in block rate and finishing effectively inside. His frontcourt counterparts — Jabari Smith, Jaylin Williams, and Dylan Cardwell — are all nuisances in the paint, as well.
Perhaps no stat better sums up the mayhem Auburn’s defense causes than this one:
Auburn is averaging 9.7 steals per game and 9 blocks per game during its 14-game win streak.
They are the first team to average 9 steals and 9 blocks in any 14-game span over the last 15 seasons.
— Jared Berson (@JaredBerson) January 20, 2022
Quite simply, the Tigers get their hands on everything, and it’s nearly impossible for opponents to get comfortable among such chaos.
Offensively, Smith has shown the multi-faceted game that has made him a favorite for the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft. He’s a total matchup nightmare with his silky shooting stroke and ability to play inside or out.
He is not the only terrifying weapon, though. Wendell Green and KD Johnson have become stars in their first campaigns at Auburn. Pearl has always craved fearlessness and shot-making in his guards, and both Green and Johnson have that in spades.
Kentucky vs. Auburn Betting Pick
Based on where full-season analytics stand, the home Tigers are actually a worse team than Kentucky. I do not buy that narrative — this Auburn squad has every piece needed to warrant the top spot in the polls.
It’s especially lethal at home, where it currently boasts an 8-1 against-the-spread record, covering by an average margin of 4.1 points (TeamRankings).
Kentucky has struggled with a skilled, lottery-caliber combo forward before. Paolo Banchero shredded the Wildcats for 22 points and seven rebounds in the season opener, giving Calipari headaches on how to defend him.
Smith could create similar migraines. If Kentucky is forced to play Jacob Toppin big minutes just to deal with Smith, the offense suffers.