College Basketball Odds & Picks for Louisville vs. Western Kentucky: Back the Home Team

College Basketball Odds & Picks for Louisville vs. Western Kentucky: Back the Home Team article feature image

Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images. Pictured: Rick Stansbury

  • Louisville plays a true road game against Western Kentucky.
  • The Cardinals have had an up-and-down season, while the Hilltoppers are one of the best mid-major teams in the nation.
  • Jim Root breaks down the game and offers up his best bet.

Louisville vs. Western Kentucky Odds

Saturday, Dec. 18
2:30 p.m. ET
CBS Sports Network
Louisville Odds
-110o / -110u
Western Kentucky Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via FanDuel. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

We love to see the “big brother” schools going on the road to play in-state foes. Credit to Chris Mack and his Cardinals, as Louisville heads to Bowling Green to take on Western Kentucky in what should be a wild home atmosphere.

Of course, this is not your typical “blue blood versus directional school” matchup. Louisville has struggled at times this year, while Rick Stansbury has built WKU into a talented (if mercurial) C-USA contender.

This is the third straight year where these two have played, though the prior two meetings were in Louisville. The Cardinals won and covered as a favorite in both matchups, but going on the road makes this an entirely different ball game.

Louisville Cardinals

It is indisputably a down year for the ACC, and Louisville is regrettably a part of that issue. Yes, there have been some ups — beating Maryland and Mississippi State — but the downs have shown up, as well. The Cardinals have already lost to Furman and DePaul at home and they barely squeaked by Detroit.

To Mack’s credit, he is incorporating a bevy of new pieces into his rotation. Louisville ranks 289th nationally in minutes continuity, with five transfers among the team’s top nine players.

The offense has been especially affected, tumbling to 114th in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency — the second-worst ranking of Mack’s 13-year head coaching career.

The rotating cast of characters at point guard has been part of the issue. Jarrod West, El Ellis and Mason Faulkner have all spent time there as Mack works to figure out his best five. Ellis is the most dynamic, but he is also the most erratic, and his turnover issues embody those of the team.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Last time we saw the Hilltoppers against a Division I opponent a week ago, they posted their best performance of the season. They went to Oxford and waxed Ole Miss, 71-48, completely demolishing the Rebels inside.

WKU out-rebounded Ole Miss 42-30 and held them to 28.6% shooting inside the arc, shocking splits that underscore how WKU is not just another mid-major. The Hilltoppers are huge and athletic, and Stansbury has fully weaponized that size.

The defensive strategy revolves around the towering Jamarion Sharp, a 7-foo-5 specimen at the rim. Sharp easily leads the country in block rate and Stansbury has smartly played a ton of zone with him on the court to keep him in the paint.

Per Hoop-Explorer, foes are shooting 51.3% at the rim when he is on the court. That number skyrockets to 63.1% when he sits — he matters.

Offensively, WKU has a group of big, skilled guards and wings that can give opponents problems. Power guards Dayvion McKnight and Josh Anderson are the slashers, while Jairus Hamilton, Camron Justice and Luke Frampton bomb away from deep.

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Louisville vs. Western Kentucky Betting Pick

I typically love these spots where a “smaller” school is hosting a bigger in-state program. I love it even more when the teams are similar in quality.

WKU does not yet have Cincinnati transfer Keith Williams (and I’m sure he’d love to play against old Xavier adversary Mack), but that’s ok here. WKU is still nearly Louisville’s equal in talent, and the home spot should play up significantly.

Plus, continuing to fade the ACC as it flounders in non-conference play feels prudent.

Louisville has had its share of struggles lately, while WKU appears to be hitting its stride now that Justice — who started the year as a grad assistant — has been integrated.

The Hilltoppers are healthier, as well. Give me Big Red to take down the redbirds!

Pick: Western Kentucky +2 (Play to -1)

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