Kentucky vs. Auburn Odds & Pick: Take Tigers Over Wildcats in Pivotal Saturday SEC Showdown
Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Auburn guard Allen Flanigan.
- Auburn and Kentucky meet for the first time this season, with both teams desperate for a win.
- The Tigers have looked like a new basketball team since the return of freshman Sharife Cooper.
- Mike Randle discusses who has the edge in a battle between SEC basketball teams.
Kentucky vs. Auburn Odds
It’s surprising to see a Kentucky vs. Auburn game in mid-January with both teams unranked.
The Wildcats and Tigers enter this game in desperate need of a win. This SEC matchup is a critical pivot point that will carry a lot of weight for potential NCAA Tournament eligibility and seeding.
Who has the edge in this battle between two of the most high-profile teams in the country?
Auburn has looked like a new team since freshman Sharife Cooper became eligible against Alabama just two games ago. The scintillating point guard has averaged 27 points, 4.5 rebounds, 10.5 assists, and 2.5 steals while averaging a robust 33 minutes per game. His presence as the offensive catalyst has buoyed the production of fellow starters in those two games:
- Allen Flanigan (15 ppg, 6 rpg, 3.5 apg past two games)
- JT Thor (13 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2 bpg)
- Devan Cambridge (12 ppg, 3 bpg)
The Tigers’ offense is centered around superb offensive efficiency. They rank 16th-best in the nation with a 57.4% efficiency inside the arc, which has increased to 56.7% in their five SEC games.
They have seen a huge improvement in their free-throw percentage, which is 65.8% overall but 75% in SEC play. Against Alabama and Georgia, Auburn shot a combined 66% (51-of-77) from the floor and 81.4% from the charity stripe. That is remarkable efficiency.
Auburn’s length and athleticism create constant defensive disruptions. Head coach Bruce Pearl’s squad holds opponents to just 30.4% from beyond the arc and rank 10th-best in the nation in defensive block rate.
Kentucky’s offense this season has been the absolute worst in John Calipari’s 12 years in Lexington. The Wildcats currently sit at just 30.3% from 3-point range (271st) and 46.7% from inside the arc (258th). Their effective field goal percentage in SEC play is a miserable 48.2%.
It seemed as though the Wildcats’ 3-point woes had turned a corner when they shot a scorching 52.3% (11-of-21) from deep in their double-overtime win at Mississippi State. But those woes returned at home against Alabama with a dismal 22% (4-of-18) outing in their 85-65 loss.
The Wildcats have also been playing shorthanded over the past few weeks with freshman Cam’Ron Fletcher’s leave of absence and an injury to athletic guard Terrence Clarke, who was averaging 10 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Recent history has illustrated the Tigers’ ability to battle Kentucky, even when they were playing at a much higher level. Auburn has won two of the past five meetings by nine and 10 points, with a loss at Lexington by just two points.
Teams that have found success against Auburn have been able to take advantage of the Tigers’ high turnover rate. In their four consecutive SEC losses, Auburn has averaged a disappointing 18.3 offensive turnovers per game. However, the Wildcats can be just as careless with the ball, averaging 17 turnovers per game in losses to Kansas, North Carolina, and Alabama.
Betting Analysis & Pick
The addition of Cooper has changed the Auburn offense and reignited its postseason goals.
The Tigers are just 1-4 in SEC play and desperately need this big road win against the conference royalty that is Kentucky. The Wildcats showed against Alabama they had not turned a corner on offense, and now they face a similar explosive attack from Auburn.
Under Calipari, the Wildcats have struggled ATS as a road underdog in SEC play. Kentucky is actually only covering at a 36.8% rate (7-12) in those situations.
Kentucky opened as a slight favorite by name only. The line has now flipped to Auburn as a slight favorite. I’m taking the Tigers to continue their ascent back to the top of the SEC standings.
Pick: Auburn -1.5 (up to -2).