Featured Video from Scott Steehn
No. 8 Tennessee vs. No. 4 Kentucky
When and Where: Saturday, March 16, Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn., 3:30 p.m. EDT.
While a spot in the SEC tournament finals is on the line Saturday for No. 8 Tennessee and fourth-ranked Kentucky, the two rivals are likely vying for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Vols turn on offense to send Mississippi State packing
Third-seeded Tennessee (28-4), which lost to Kentucky in last year’s final, set up a rubber match this season with the Wildcats by knocking off Mississippi State 83-76 on Friday night.
Admiral Schofield scored 20 points to lead all five Volunteers starters in double figures and brought down the house with what may have been the dunk of the year in the SEC in the second half.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) March 16, 2019
Grant Williams and Kyle Alexander added 16 points apiece as Tennessee shot a tidy 51.5 percent, grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, and had 21 assists on their 34 field goals. The Volunteers also got a huge boost off the bench from Lamonte Turner, who had eight of those assists while chipping in five points.
Tennessee has beaten Kentucky in back-to-back games just twice since the 1996-97 season, sweeping the season series in 1999 and 2018 before failing to win the SEC tournament final. Jordan Bone was the best player in the two games this season, totaling 46 points and scoring 27 in the 71-52 Volunteers home victory March 2 and hitting all five of his 3-point attempts.
Williams had 24 in that win and 40 overall in the two meetings.
Wildcats’ march for fifth straight SEC tourney title continues
No. 4 Kentucky (27-5) won its 14th consecutive SEC tournament game with a workmanlike 73-55 victory over Alabama on Friday night. Tyler Herro scored 20 points, but the big news was the return of Reid Travis, who returned from a five-game absence due to a knee injury to contribute eight points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 16, 2019
Travis hit 4 of 6 shots as coach John Calipari was able to get him extended playing time in a comfortable game environment with the Wildcats in control. Immanuel Quickley added 12 points off the bench, hitting 3 of 3 from beyond the arc, but Kentucky also stifled Alabama by holding the Tide to 30.4 percent shooting.
“Yeah, I feel good right now,” Travis said post-game. “I felt good out there. I felt like I did the necessary things the three weeks I was out to keep my body in shape, to stay engaged with the team so I could be successful when I came out here.
“All in all, I thought it was pretty good for my first time out.”
Kentucky has won three straight since being manhandled in Knoxville, a game it played without Travis. The Wildcats held their own on the boards, winning that battle 39-36, but the offensive flow Travis brings was clearly missing as they shot 31.8 percent (14 for 44) in their worst defeat since being hammered by Duke to start the season.
The Wildcats are trying to win a fifth straight conference tournament title for the first time since a seven-year reign from 1944-50.
- 6-2 ATS in its last eight Saturday games.
- 32-15-4 ATS in its last 51 neutral site games.
- 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games following an ATS win.
- The under is 6-0 in its last six games following an ATS win.
- The under is 14-5-2 in its last 21 games vs. Tennessee.
- The under is 6-2 in its last eight games vs. above-.600 teams.
- No trends of note.
- The under is 14-5-2 in its last 21 games vs. above-.500 teams.
- The under is 14-5 in its last 19 games as an underdog between 0.5-6.5 points.
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
A rubber match with huge implications, and Tennessee is undoubtedly a worthy adversary for Kentucky, but the pick here is the Wildcats and empire. They showed just how much better they are offensively with Travis in the lineup in terms of flow and function, and the defense remained consistent. This is a heavyweight match, but Travis, Herro, and PJ Washington have just a little bit more than Williams and Schofield, though Bone could prove problematic once more.
Prediction: Pick: Kentucky -2
Full-Game Total Pick
The expectation is the defenses will come to play once more in a physical contest. Kentucky learned something from getting punched in the mouth in Knoxville, and the expectation is Travis will provide some steel to keep the young Wildcats on an even keel to put them over the top in what should be a one-possession game.
Prediction: Pick: UNDER 139.5 points
Full-Game Prop Bet
Taking the Wildcats and the under, means taking the Volunteers under their point total. Tennessee only got to 71 in its win over Kentucky in Knoxville, and there was only one other occasion the Wildcats allowed more than 70 points in their last eight games. With Travis in the lineup at Rupp, the Vols scored 69, but the hedge is this game tightens significantly on both ends as Kentucky wins a lower-scoring game than the first two.
Prediction: Pick: Tennessee UNDER 69 points
Half-Time Side Pick
Essentially a toss-up, Travis’ return stopped a trend in which Kentucky trailed after 20 minutes in the previous four games, including its loss at Tennessee. Not much can be gleaned from the season split — the Wildcats were up six at intermission at Rupp Arena and trailed by 13 at Thompson-Boling — but when in doubt, go with the defending champs.
Prediction: Pick: Kentucky -1
Half-Time Total Bet
Oddsmakers tried to split the difference from the two meetings, with 68 scored in the first half in Kentucky and 61 in Tennessee. Tennessee has scored at least 31 first-half points in all 20 of its games against conference foes, and the hedge is the over squeaks this one out late.
Prediction: Pick: OVER 65 points
Half-Time Prop Prediction
The hedge here is Kentucky is not going have more turnovers (17) than field goals (14) like it did in its loss at Tennessee. The Wildcats also will likely not shoot 54.7 percent like they did in their home win over the Volunteers, but there is a middle ground in which they do not turn the ball over all that much and get close to the 37 they scored in their home win over the Vols.
Prediction: Pick: Kentucky OVER 33 points