Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 10:00 AM
Kansas at Kentucky
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Two the country’s most storied programs are set to collide Saturday night at Rupp Arena in Lexington, where Kentucky will take on Kansas. As of late Friday afternoon, a couple of books had posted Kentucky (15-3 straight up, 9-8-1 against the spread) as a six-point favorite with a total of 144.
John Calipari’s team has won five games in a row since dropping its SEC opener at Alabama. UK is off Tuesday’s 76-55 win over Mississippi State as a seven home ‘chalk.’ The 131 combined points dipped ‘under’ the 145-point total. P.J. Washington was the catalyst with 21 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots. Tyler Herron added 18 points and five rebounds, draining all three of his launches from downtown and all five of his free-throw attempts.
UK has covered the spread in three straight games, going to Auburn last Saturday and winning 82-80 as a 4.5-point road underdog. Calipari’s club took a 35-27 advantage into halftime and extended the lead to as many as 16 early in the second half. Herro and Keldon Johnson scored 20 points apiece, while Reid Travis contributed 17 points and seven rebounds on 6-of-7 shooting from the field. Washington added 13 points, seven boards.
Kentucky is No. 8 in the NCAA’s new NET Rankings, which have basically replaced what we used to call the RPI. UK is No. 9 at KenPom.com, producing a 6-3 record against K-Pom Top-100 opponents. The Wildcats have neutral-court defeats vs. Duke (118-84). Vs. Seton Hall (84-83 in OT) and at Alabama (77-75). They own quality home wins over MSU, Vanderbilt and UNC Greensboro, in addition to road scalps at Auburn, at Louisville and a neutral-court victory over North Carolina.
UK is ranked 48th in the nation with its 80.0 points-per-game average. The ‘Cats are 24th in the country in field-goal percentage (48.6%) and 37th in free-throw percentage (75.1%).
Johnson is scoring at a team-best 14.7 PPG clip and pulling down 5.1 rebounds per game. He’s knocked down 51.1 percent of his FGAs. Herro (13.7 PPG) is UK’s second-leading scorer who has buried 35.6 percent of his treys and 90.7 percent of his free-throw attempts. Travis, a grad transfer who was an All-Pac-12 selection at Stanford last season, is averaging 12.6 points and 6.7 RPG while hitting 53.1 percent of his FGAs.
Washington averages 12.3 points and 7.8 RPG, and he’s making 52.0 percent of his FGAs and 41.2 percent of his 3-balls. Ashton Hagans, a freshman guard who was originally a UGA verbal commit before Mark Fox was fired, went off for a career-high 23 points in a win at Georgia a few weeks ago. Hagans (7.4 PPG) has a 70/40 assist-to-turnover ratio and a team-high 39 steals.
Kansas (16-3 SU, 8-11 ATS) has won three consecutive head-to-head meetings vs. UK while going 2-1 in the past three seasons. When they collided at United Center in Chicago last year on Nov. 14, the Jayhawks captured a 65-61 victory but failed to cover the number as five-point favorites. Udoka Azubuike made all five of his FGAs and finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and a pair rejections. Lagerald Vick finished with nine points, six boards, three steals and five assists with one turnover.
Bill Self’s squad has won six of its past eight games, but it is mired in a 3-6 ATS slump its last nine times out. KU bounced back from last Saturday’s 65-64 loss at West Virginia to nip Iowa State by an 80-76 count as a five-point home favorite. Dedric Lawson dropped a game-high 29 points on the Cyclones by hitting 13-of-17 FGAs and grabbing 15 rebounds. Marcus Garrett, a sophomore guard out of Dallas, finished with 16 points, five boards, three steals and one block. Vick had 14 points, while Devon Dotson produced 11 points, two steals, two boards and eight assists without a turnover.
Lawson, a transfer from Memphis, averages team-highs in scoring (19.5 points per game), rebounding (10.9 RPG), FG percentage (52.9%) and blocked shots (1.1 BPG). Vick (15.0 PPG) is burying 45.7 percent his 3-pointers, while Azubuike (13.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG) is ‘out’ with a season-ending injury.
KU is ranked 14th in the NET Rankings and 12th in K-Pom with its 12-3 record against the K-Pom Top 100. The Jayhawks have quality neutral-court victories over the likes of Michigan State, Marquette, Tennessee and New Mexico State, in addition to home wins over Vermont, Wofford, Villanova, Oklahoma, TCU, Texas and Iowa State. They also have a road scalp at Baylor, but they’ve lost at WVU, at Iowa State and at Arizona State.
Kansas is 1-3 both SU and ATS in four road assignments this year. Meanwhile, Kentucky is undefeated in 11 home games with a 5-6 spread record. UK is 1-0 ATS as a single-digit home favorite, 3-3 ATS in six different spots as a single-digit ‘chalk.’
KU is in its second underdog spot of the season. The Jayhawks lost 77-60 at Iowa State as 2.5-point ‘dogs on Jan. 5.
The ‘under’ is 10-8 overall for UK after cashing in three of its past four games. The ‘under’ is 7-4 for the ‘Cats in their home contests.
The ‘over’ is 11-7-1 overall for KU, 2-2 in its road assignments.
Tip-off is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets
-- The SEC/Big 12 Challenge will get going at noon Eastern when TCU hosts Florida on ESPN2 and Ole Miss takes on Iowa State in Oxford. The Rebels are tied with Virginia for the nation’s best ATS record at 15-3. Kermit Davis’s squad is 8-1 both SU and ATS in nine home games with the lone defeat coming last week against LSU, a team that’s won eight games in a row. The Cyclones are 2-3 SU and 3-2 ATS in five road assignments. These schools haven’t met since 2000 when ISU won 73-68 as a two-point road favorite at the old ‘Tad Pad.’ The ‘under’ is on a 7-1 run for the Rebels in their past eight games. As of late Friday afternoon, multipleshops had the Rebels installed as 1.5-point home favorites.
-- TCU has won nine of its 10 home games while compiling a 5-5 spread record. As for the Gators, they’re 2-2 SU and 3-1 ATS in four road contests. UF has won back-to-back games to improve to 11-7 overall and 3-3 in SEC action. Florida is 4-1 in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge and 3-0 under Mike White. [...] opened the Horned Frogs as three-point home ‘chalk’ with a total of 135.5.
-- Attractive future bet right now? LSU at 100/1 odds to win it all. Obviously, if the Tigers make the Sweet 16, you can hedge to ensure a solid profit. They take an eight-game winning streak into Missouri on Saturday night for a 6:00 p.m. Eastern tip on the SEC Network.shops opened Will Wade’s squad as a 4.5-point road favorite.
-- Baylor and Alabama will collide in Waco on Saturday afternoon at noon Eastern on ESPNU. The Bears were four-point home favorites as of late Friday afternoon.
-- Duke’s Tre Jones has been upgraded to ‘probable’ for Saturday’s home games vs. Ga. Tech. Jones has missed two straight games after spraining his shoulder in an overtime loss to Syracuse. He averages 8.1 points, 5.7 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game.
-- Belmont won 79-66 Thursday at Murray State to hand the Racers their first loss in Ohio Valley Conference play. Murray State star Ja Morant twisted his ankle less than two minutes into the game. He would return but was clearly limited by the injury. Morant finished with 20 points and nine assists, but he also had five turnovers and hit only 5-of-19 FGAs.
-- Xavier forward Naji Marshall (shoulder) is ‘questionable’ for Saturday’s home game vs. Marquette. Marshall averages 13.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game. Fox Sports 1 will have the telecast at 2:00 p.m. Eastern.
-- Auburn isn’t included in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge yet again this year. Bruce Pearl’s squad won’t have Austin Wiley again (leg) for Saturday night’s 8:30 p.m. Eastern tip at Mississippi State on the SEC Network. The line opened as a pick ‘em with a total of 152.
-- If the openingline sticks (Va. Tech -7 vs. Syracuse), I'm all about The 'Cuse in that ACC showdown.
-- Vermont star Anthony Lamb (20.6 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.2 BPG) is ‘questionable’ for Saturday’s showdown vs. Stony Brook due to a concussion.
-- San Diego’s Olin Carter III is ‘questionable’ (abdominal) against San Francisco. Carter averages 16.5 PPG.
-- LAST CALL! UCLA will host Arizona at 10:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN2. The Bruins opened as two-point home favorites.
Follow Brian Edwards' sports gambling opinions on Twitter at @vegasbedwards