Saint Peter’s vs. Kentucky Odds, Picks, Predictions: Are Wildcats Overvalued In NCAA Tournament First Round?
(Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured: TyTy Washington Jr. (Kentucky)
St. Peter’s vs. Kentucky Odds
|St. Peter’s Odds|
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Saint Peter’s hopes to play the role of king slayer, as it matches up against the Kentucky Wildcats.
Saint Peter’s enters the tournament having won seven games in a row en route to a MAAC Tournament title. The Peacocks have been reliant on their dominant defense, with the offense prone to scoring droughts.
If they want to pull off a miracle over Kentucky, it will come from the defensive end of the floor.
Kentucky enters the NCAA Tournament with its mind on a National Championship. John Calipari’s group was rewarded with the best 2-seed draw of any team in the tournament, but will need to get past a pesky Saint Peter’s defense in the first round.
The Wildcats will lean on their significant height advantage and dominant inside presence in Oscar Tshiebwe in this matchup.
Whether Saint Peter’s defense can handle the step up in class will determine if it can remain the hottest team in the country against the spread.
Saint Peter’s earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament thanks to its relentless effort on the defensive end. The Peacocks own the 34th-best defensive efficiency in the country, according to KenPom, and it was on full display during the last month of the season.
Saint Peter’s won its final seven games while holding opponents to 52 points and an astonishing 31% from the field. That defensive effort was the key to the Peacocks’ success this season. They held opponents to 29% shooting from 3-point range (15th) and 44% on 2-point attempts (11th).
KC Ndefo is one of the top rim-protectors in the country, averaging 2.9 blocks per game. Ndefo’s defense was highlighted against Quinnipiac when he swatted 11 shots. But that was against MAAC competition, and he hasn’t held up the same standard when stepping up in class.
For as good as Saint Peter’s defense is, the offense can be hard to watch. The Peacocks rank outside the top 300 in almost every offensive category, according to Synergy. The offense is prone to turning the ball over and struggles at scoring inside the paint.
Though they’re typically a strong offensive rebounding team, that likely won’t be a reliable option against the size of Kentucky.
It’s hard to imagine Saint Peter’s finding consistent scoring options against a strong Kentucky defense.
Kentucky is one of the best teams in the country when it plays to its full potential. The Wildcats have what seems like a full roster of players who can lead the team in any given game, and nearly every player has in at least one outing this season.
The offense for the Wildcats can truly come from anywhere, but it moves and works around Tshiebwe — the SEC Player of the Year and best rebounder in the country. If Tshiebwe gets into foul trouble, things start to crumble on offense, as we saw in the Wildcats’ last game against Tennessee.
If that does indeed occur, what’s even more worrisome for Kentucky is that John Calipari is one of the worst in the country when it comes to holding players out with fouls.
Kentucky plays at its best when it can push the pace. The Wildcats need to be scoring 70+ to win games. They rank first in field goal attempt rate, and even when they do miss, they are one of the best rebounding teams in the country. They convert 9.2% of second-chance opportunities, which is second in the nation.
It’s not just rebounding. On defense, Kentucky ranks among the best, as well. The Wildcats have been excellent at limiting fouls and preventing teams from getting to the charity stripe. They are 19th in college basketball, giving up just 19.5 free throw attempts per game.
The Cats rank inside the top 75 in both 2- and 3-point defense, while also limiting teams to an effective field goal percentage of just 46.6%.
They have the talent to be the best, and they are a true Final Four contender. But to reach that lofty goal, this team needs to play its best basketball and continue to drive the pace.
St. Peter’s vs. Kentucky Betting Pick
Saint Peter’s is 20-9 against the spread this season, which is the best record of any team playing in the NCAA Tournament. Since the start of 2022, the Peacocks have gone 17-4 against the spread.
Saint Peter’s defense is undoubtedly elite — allowing just 62 points per game — but that came against MAAC competition. The offense has been reliant on snatching offensive rebounds and getting to the free throw line. Kentucky won’t allow either of those to happen.
The matchup of Ndefo and Tshiebwe is must-watch TV and will determine who covers this game. Ndefo will need to avoid foul trouble, as his interior defense is pivotal to Saint Peter’s success.
Saint Peter’s will slow this game down and attempt to limit Kentucky’s offensive possessions. But over the course of the 40 minutes, I see Kentucky wearing down the Saint Peter’s frontcourt.
Saint Peter’s will struggle to find any source of offense in this matchup, but the defense will be able to hang tough in the first half before foul trouble will ultimately doom it.
For that reason, I’m targeting the first half under.
Pick: 1H Under 63
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