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College Basketball Odds & Picks for Tennessee vs. Kentucky: Will the Cats Cover?

College Basketball Odds & Picks for Tennessee vs. Kentucky: Will the Cats Cover? article feature image

Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Head coach John Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats.

Tennessee vs. Kentucky Odds

Saturday, Jan. 15
1 p.m. ET
Tennessee Odds
-105o / -115u
Kentucky Odds
-105o / -115u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

Tennessee has an 11-4 record, including a 2-2 mark in SEC play, after a 66-46 win over South Carolina on Tuesday night. The Volunteers are 2-0 at home in league action, but 0-2 on the road. The Volunteers will look to pull off their first conference road win on the road against rival Kentucky.

Kentucky is 13-3 overall and 3-1 in SEC play. The Wildcats have been on a roll of late, earning wins in six of their last seven games. Each of those victories have come by double digits, including Tuesday’s 78-66 victory at Vanderbilt.

There is no love lost between Tennessee and Kentucky, a series that dates back to 1910. Kentucky leads the all-time series, 157-75, but Tennessee has had the edge since Rick Barnes arrived in Knoxville in 2015. Since then, Tennessee is 8-6 against Kentucky and have won three of the last four meetings at Rupp Arena. Will home court help the Wildcats this time?

Tennessee Volunteers

Tennessee has been elite on the defensive end, ranking second in adjusted defensive efficiency and ninth in defensive rating. The Volunteers are holding opponents to 39.7% from the field.

Tennessee is eighth nationally in turnovers forced at 18.4 per game and a SEC-best 20.4 turnovers forced in conference play. Tennessee is third nationally in turnover margin (+6.4) and seventh in steals (10.7). Guards Kennedy Chandler and Santiago Vescovi both are averaging over two steals per game and rank in the top five of the SEC.

However, the offensive end can be a struggle at times. Tennessee is averaging 66.8 PPG per game in conference play, shooting 39% from the field and 27.8% from three. For the season, it ranks 58th in adjusted offensive efficiency.

Vescovi leads the Vols in scoring at 13.6 points, to go along with 4.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists. Chandler is just behind at 13.4 points and 5.1 assists. However, Tennessee doesn’t lose much when it turns to backup point Zakai Ziegler. Tennessee’s offensive rating is 104.5 when Chandler plays and 101.4 when Ziegler is on the floor. Ziegler is averaging 6.9 points, 2.6 assists and 1.6 steals.

Defensive stalwart Josiah Jordan-James had 11 points and 12 rebounds against South Carolina, which marked the second double-double of his career. Forward Oliver Nkamhoua is averaging 9.3 points and 5.9 rebounds. He’s also a floor spacer for the Vols and shoots 50% from deep.

Forward John Fulkerson is averaging nine points, six rebounds and 1.3 blocks. He’s one of two players to ever beat Kentucky three times at Rupp Arena.

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Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky has four double-digit scorers that make up the eighth-most efficient offense in the country. Oscar Tshiebwe leads the way at 17.1 points to go along with 15.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. The senior forward has been a double-double machine with 13 in 16 games, and leads the nation in rebounding. Keion Brooks joins Tshiebwe up front, averaging 10.7 points and 4.6 rebounds.

On the perimeter, TyTy Washington averages 13.7 points, 4.3 rebound and 4.8 assists, while Kellan Grady averages 11.6 points. Both are excellent floor spacers, as Washington is shooting 40.4% from three, while Grady shoots 45.4 percent.

Point guard Sahvir Wheeler is averaging 9.6 points, plus he ranks third nationally with 7.3 assists per game. Wheeler has missed the last two games with a neck injury. However, according to head coach John Calipari, he will play. Senior Davion Mintz is averaging nine points per game and is another capable shooter at 36.8% from deep.

Having the best rebounder in the country helps as Kentucky averages 43.4 rebounds per game, marks that rank third nationally and tops in the SEC. For the season, Kentucky is +15.2 in rebounding margin and +9 in conference play. Kentucky is 21st nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and 24th in defensive rating.

Tennessee vs. Kentucky Betting Pick

Tennessee is +2.5 in rebounding margin for the season, but is allowing 38.8 rebounds and is -3.3 in rebounding margin in SEC play. Going against Tshiebwe and Kentucky, it’s likely Tennessee loses the battle on the boards.

Tennessee has also feasted off its opponents turnovers, but Kentucky is only averaging 10.5 turnovers per in SEC play. If Tennessee cannot easy points off Kentucky turnovers, it might have a hard time scoring given its struggling offense.

Speaking of easy points, Tennessee is only shooting 66.5 from the free-throw line for season and is shooting 57% over the last three games. If the game is tight down the stretch, the free-throw advantage will favor Kentucky, which is shooting 71.7% for the season.

Tennessee has done well at Rupp Arena in recent years, but this season it has struggled on the road. Meanwhile, Kentucky has a much better team at home at 11-0. With that in mind, I like Kentucky to take game one of the season series on its home floor and cover.

Pick: Kentucky -5.5

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