NCAAB Odds, Pick for Tennessee vs Kentucky

NCAAB Odds, Pick for Tennessee vs Kentucky article feature image
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Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Kentucky basketball head coach John Calipari.

Tennessee vs Kentucky Odds, Pick

Saturday, Feb. 3
8:30 p.m. ET
ESPN
Tennessee Odds
Point SpreadTotal PointsMoneyline
+1.5
-115
159.5
-105o / -115u
-105
Kentucky Odds
Point SpreadTotal PointsMoneyline
-1.5
-105
159.5
-105o / -115u
-115
Odds via BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NCAAB odds here.

Two of the SEC's best are set to add another chapter to a rivalry that has been revitalized since Tennessee hired Rick Barnes.

Surprisingly, the Vols and Wildcats suffered surprising home losses during the week.

With both teams angry and now looking up at Alabama in the SEC standings, both will be eager to inch closer to the Tide by earning a tough conference win on Saturday evening.


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Tennessee Volunteers

The transfer portal allows teams to add proven commodities to fill roster needs overnight. Rick Barnes sought to do exactly that in the offseason, knowing his team was close but not quite good enough after losing to FAU in the Sweet 16 last season.

By adding Dalton Knecht from Northern Colorado, Barnes was hoping to add scoring.

In recent years, Tennessee has been built in the mold of Houston and Wisconsin teams. All three teams relied on their stifling defensive units to frustrate opponents, yet often fell just short due to a lack of scoring depth. In close games, Tennessee failed to run effective offense through a proficient scorer who could break down an opponent in several ways.

Barnes hoped that Knecht would emerge as that option his team could rely upon to get a bucket late in the shot clock. Knecht had proven he was more than capable of a starring role in the Big Sky, but would his level of play maintain at the high-major level?

While Barnes may have expected the answer to be a yes, even he couldn't have planned on Knecht providing such an emphatic answer.

Knecht leads the SEC in scoring. He has single-handedly transformed the Volunteer offense, taking Tennessee from an offense that finished 65th in KenPom offensive efficiency last year to a top-30 unit this season.

Jonas Aidoo, Zakai Zeigler and Josiah-Jordan James are all mainstays in the Tennessee program now. All are capable complementary pieces that are more valuable to Barnes because of what they contribute defensively.

The need for a source of reliable offensive production was there for Tennessee, and Knecht has filled that need admirably. Even in the Volunteers' recent loss to South Carolina at home, Knecht provided more than half of the team's scoring by tallying 31 of the team's 59 total points.

Against Kentucky's fast-paced, high-octane offense, Knecht may be required to provide a similarly outstanding performance if the Volunteers have hopes of winning in Lexington.

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Kentucky Wildcats

So many teams in this era are trying to "get old and stay old." Via redshirts, medical waivers, or the utilization of the COVID-19 year policy, many of the best teams in the country have inputted a formula to use experience to attain success.

Kentucky has instead chosen to be an outlier.

Save for Antonio Reeves, nearly all Kentucky's key contributors are young.

Tre Mitchell is a veteran of college basketball at this point, to be fair, but he is still getting used to playing for John Calipari in his first year in the UK. The Wildcats are Mitchell's fourth team in his collegiate career, so his wealth of experience is somewhat negated by his playing in a new system with new teammates.

Aside from Reeves and Mitchell, Calipari relies upon many freshmen to lead his program to success this year.

Many programs benefit from the poise, confidence and continuity that comes from experience throughout a roster. Calipari must rely simply on the talent of his young roster to overcome the experience advantage Tennessee and many other teams have over his own. Luckily and unsurprisingly, Cal's young contributors have plenty of talent.

Reed Sheppard has emerged with quiet confidence throughout the year. Sheppard's team is certainly not known for its defense, yet Sheppard has helped immensely. Sheppard leads the SEC in steals as a freshman, leading to many run-out opportunities for a highly athletic Kentucky team that excels in transition. He is also second behind Reeves in made threes for Kentucky.

Sheppard and fellow freshman Rob Dillingham are extremely confident perimeter shooters looking to stretch a good Tennessee defense by spacing the floor.

Even if Tennessee can mount a formidable lead in the first half, Kentucky is a tough team to put away.


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Tennessee vs Kentucky

Betting Pick & Prediction

Kentucky has proven to be vulnerable at home throughout the year. The Wildcats have already suffered losses to UNC Wilmington and Florida at home and needed overtime to survive St. Joe's.

Tennessee won't have the luxury of catching Kentucky napping on Saturday. Kentucky's rivalry and respect for Tennessee's capability would likely be enough. Still, the loss Kentucky just suffered to Florida ensures Kentucky's full attention will be focused on the Volunteers.

I expect both teams to focus more on their defensive intensity than their usual standard. Barnes and Calipari will emphasize the need to care for the ball, which could lead to each backcourt slowing the pace.

My inclination is to take the under in this rivalry game, where both teams will likely feel pressure to avoid consecutive losses.

Pick: Under 160 (Play to 157)

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Sean Treppedi
Apr 12, 2024 UTC