Kentucky vs. Abilene Christian Betting Guide: All Wildcats in NCAA Tournament First Round
Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Kentucky Wildcats guard Keldon Johnson (3)
#2 Kentucky vs. #15 Abilene Christian: NCAA Tournament Betting Odds
- Spread: Kentucky -22
- Over/Under: 132
- Location: Jacksonville, Fla.
- Date: Thursday, March 21
- Time: 7:10 p.m. ET
- TV: CBS
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The butterflies will assist Abilene Christian in its first ever NCAA Tournament appearance. It draws one of the blue bloods of college basketball in Kentucky. Although both teams have the Wildcats as their mascots, Abilene Christian is in just its sixth year of Division I play.
It has been an amazing season for ACU after losing two of its best players in B.J. Maxwell and Jalone Friday just last month. Despite the losses, the Wildcats were able to win 11 of their past 13 games, including the Southland Tournament.
After a successful campaign in the SEC, Kentucky lost in the conference tournament semifinals to Tennessee. The only other team to beat Kentucky since the first week of January was LSU at home.
UK will be without star P.J. Washington, who has a sprained foot, for this game.
Kentucky Will Dominate the Glass
Kentucky should absolutely dominate on the glass at both ends of the floor. The Wildcats are 10th in the nation in offensive rebounding, while ACU ranks in the bottom third of the NCAA (against subpar competition).
One important factor in this game will be how often ACU allows Kentucky to get to the free throw line. The Wildcats have had a stellar season from the charity stripe, ranking 73rd in free throw percentage and ranking seventh in points distribution for free throws. Kentucky will be angling for the rim on each offensive possession.
Abilene Christian Has Two Key Strengths
There are reasons these Wildcats won the Southland. ACU is eighth in opponent turnover percentage and have the 19th-best 3-point shooting percentage in the nation. ACU isn’t a team that relies on shooting from deep, but it has had success when a shot is needed.
One statistic to look at is Minutes Continuity, which measures how often the five players on the floor have played together year over year. There is a large discrepancy between the two Wildcat rosters. ACU is 72nd in minutes continuity while Kentucky is 324th thanks to huge roster turnover every year.
The Southland winner has plenty of experience playing on the floor together.
But size is also important. Kentucky is 34th in average height, 16th in blocks and eighth in opponent 2-point percentage. That may not work well for an Abilene Christian team that doesn’t have size and can’t even come close to matching up athletically.
I would not be surprised to see Kentucky completely overlook this game in preparation for a dangerous Wofford team. The Terriers excel in 3-point shooting and are strategically different from ACU on offense.
Kentucky’s athleticism alone should make this an easy victory, but ACU does not turn the ball over, shoots well from deep and may be able to provide enough pressure to get some turnovers. I would wait for this number to steam out before tip-off before investing.
Collin’s Pick: Abilene Christian +22.5, but wait for +23 or better
Action Network Projected Spread
Get point spreads for this game and every possible tournament matchup with our bracket simulator built by Sean Koerner, our Director of Predictive Analytics, a former oddsmaker and FantasyPros’ most accurate in-season fantasy football ranker from 2015-2017.
- Spread: Kentucky -22.5
- Total: 133
- Proj Score: Kentucky 78 | Abilene Christian 55.5
- Win Probability: Kentucky 99.3% | Abilene Christian 0.7%
Editor’s note: The opinions on this game is from the individual writer and are based on his research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.