Saturday Early Action
February 7, 2014
By David Schwab
The race for regular season conference titles in men's college basketball heats things up on Saturday with a trifecta of showdowns in the SEC, Big 12 and Big Ten. No. 18 Kentucky will go for the season sweep of Mississippi State and No. 15 Texas will try and extend its current winning streak to eight games.
The biggest matchup of the three pits No. 10 Michigan on the road against No. 17 Iowa in a battle between two of the top three teams in the Big Ten. The following takes a closer look at the key stats and betting trends for all three games.
No. 18 Kentucky Wildcats vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (ESPN3, 1:30 p.m.)
Head coach John Calipari's recent rant that Kentucky is the "most overanalyzed team" in sports history might be a bit of a stretch, but his team cannot afford any kind of letdown this Saturday with a showdown against No. 3 Florida on next Saturday's slate. The Wildcats are 7-2 straight-up in the SEC and 17-5 overall. They have gone 4-1 against the spread in their last five games as part of a 10-8-2 record ATS. The total has gone OVER in four of five road games this year. Kentucky is averaging 80 points a game and shooting 47.6 percent from the field. Led by John Randle (9.9 rebounds) it is ranked seventh in the nation in rebounds with 41.7 a game.
Mississippi State's current losing streak reached four games with this past Wednesday's 72-52 drubbing as a 7 ½-point road underdog against Texas A&M. The Bulldogs are 13-9 SU overall as a result of a less than competitive nonconference schedule, but against the rest of the SEC they are only 3-6. They have covered in four of six home games this season and the total has gone OVER in four of those contests. Mississippi State could be considered a balanced team, but that is not necessarily a positive thing. While the Bulldogs are holding teams to 68.5 points a game, they are scoring an average of just 68.1 points on the other end of the court. They will be at a huge disadvantage under the boards in this matchup with an average of 33.4 rebounds a game.
Kentucky has been opened as a 12-point road favorite this time around after beating the Bulldogs 85-63 in early January as a 20 ½-point favorite at home.
The Wildcats have won the last six meetings in this series SU and they have covered in the last two. The total went OVER the closing 142-point line in the first game and it has now gone OVER in five of the last six meetings.
No. 15 Texas Longhorns vs. Kansas State Wildcats (ESPN3, 1:30 p.m.)
The Longhorns opened up this year's Big 12 campaign with back-to-back losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State both SU and ATS, but they have been perfect ever since to run their conference record to 7-2, which is just one game in back of No. 8 Kansas in the standings. Texas has not enjoyed the same success ATS with a 4-5 mark during this stretch, although it has covered in four of its last six contests. The Longhorns are averaging 76.9 points a game and holding teams just below 70 points on the other end of the court. Their biggest strength could be under the boards with an average of 42.8 rebounds a game.
Kansas State kicked off play in the Big 12 with a stunning 74-71 victory over No. 19 Oklahoma State as a 5 ½-point home underdog, but it has been tough sledding ever since with just four SU wins in its last eight games. The Wildcats are 15-7 SU overall and an extremely tough out at home with just one loss in 12 games. The have also been a fairly solid bet on their home court with a record of 6-3-1 ATS. The total has stayed UNDER in seven of nine home games this year. This is not the most dynamic offense in the Big 12 with 68.2 points a game, but Kansas State is still ranked 22nd in the nation in points allowed (62.0 points) even after giving up 81 points to both Iowa State and West Virginia in two of its last three outings.
Kansas State has been opened as a slight four-point home favorite over the Longhorns after falling 67-64 as a 5 ½-point road underdog when they first met on Jan. 21.
Despite this loss, the Wildcats have a 6-2 edge both SU and ATS in the last eight meetings and Texas is just 2-6-1 ATS in its last nine trips to Kansas State. The total stayed UNDER the 135-point line in the first meeting, but it went OVER in five of the previous six meetings.
No. 10 Michigan Wolverines vs. No. 17 Iowa Hawkeyes (ESPN, 2 p.m.)
Michigan has a half-game lead over rival Michigan State in the Big Ten standings with a record of 9-1 SU. Its only setback was a 63-52 loss to Indiana this past Sunday as a three-point road favorite. Despite that loss, the Wolverines have also covered in the rest of their conference games as part of an overall ATS record of 11-8-1. The total stayed UNDER in their last two games after going OVER in five of their previous six outings. This is another team that knows how to play defense by holding opponents to 63.7 points a game. Michigan is averaging 76.1 points and shooting a very productive 48.7 percent from the field. The one glaring weakness has been under the boards with just 32.9 rebounds a game.
It has been a bit of a roller coaster ride for the Hawkeyes as a late with a loss following a win both SU and ATS in their last six games. They are now 6-4 SU in conference play as a part of an overall record of 17-6. Iowa has covered in 13 of 21 games with a posted line and the total has gone OVER in 13 of 20 games this year. It is 6-5 ATS at home and the total has gone OVER in seven of 10 games. The Hawkeyes are scoring 83.7 points a game which is the 10th-highest total in the country and they are ranked third in rebounds with 43.4. Roy Devyn Marble and Aaron White have done most of the damage with a combined 29.3 points, 11.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game.
Michigan drew first blood in this season's series with a 75-67 victory on Jan. 22 as a three-point home favorite. The Hawkeyes will be looking to return the favor as six-point favorites at home for Saturday's tilt.
The home team in this matchup has won eight of the last 10 meetings SU and it is 9-1 ATS. The total stayed UNDER the 148-point line in the first meeting after going OVER in three of the previous four games between these two.
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