Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:59 AM

Kentucky at Ole Miss

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Kentucky (24-5 straight up, 16-13 against the spread) will be in bounce-back mode tonight when it invades Oxford to take on an Ole Miss team that can bolster in its resume with a notable win over the Wildcats, who were listed as 5.5-point road favorites early this morning. The total for ‘over/under’ wagers was 140.5 points, only to drop all the way down to 138 in only about an hour this a.m. The Rebels were +190 on the money line (risk $100 to win $190).

John Calipari’s team owns a 7-2 SU record and a 6-3 ATS mark in nine road assignments this season. On the flip side, Ole Miss (19-10 SU, 21-8 ATS) is 11-4 SU and 10-5 ATS at home.

After getting trounced 71-52 on Saturday afternoon at Tennessee, UK is 13-3 in SEC play and one game back of the league’s co-leaders, LSU and UT, who are both 14-2 in conference action. Since the Wildcats split with the Volunteers and lost their only head-to-head meeting with the Tigers, they need to sweep their last two games at Ole Miss and vs. Florida. Also, the Wildcats need LSU to lose Wednesday at Florida and at home vs. Vandy this weekend. UT hosts Mississippi St. tonight (more on this game below in Bonus Nuggets) and closes Saturday at Auburn.

The chances of those three scenarios coming through are slim, especially considering how the Commodores remain winless in SEC play. Therefore, there’s a good chance that UK will be a No. 3 seed at the SEC Tournament in Nashville next week (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). What’s more important (or costly depending on your mind set) is that a potential showdown with UT in Nashville could determine a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament (unless that potential meeting comes in the SEC semifinals and the winner falls in the finals).

In Joe Lunardi’s latest edition of ‘Bracketology’ filed this morning to ESPN.com, Kentucky is still on the one line in the Midwest Region facing Sam Houston St. in its NCAA opener in Columbus. OH., for the right to square off against the Texas-UCF survivor of an 8/9 matchup. Kermit Davis’s squad was listed as a No. 10 seed set to take on seventh-seeded Cincinnati in Columbia, S.C., with the winner advancing to most likely face second-seeded North Carolina. In other words, Ole Miss will be in precarious position going into Nashville for the SEC Tournament if it loses to UK tonight and takes another defeat in Saturday’s regular-season finale at Missouri.

Kentucky jumped out to a 6-0 lead at UT on Saturday, but it was all Vols the rest of the way. UT led 37-24 at halftime and the ‘Cats never got closer that 13 in the second half. P.J. Washington was UK’s only double-figure scorer with 13 points thanks to 9-of-13 shooting at the free-throw line. He was only 2-of-6 from the field and had twice as many turnovers (four) as assists (two). Nick Richards had eight points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots, but Tyler Herro was 1-of-11 on FGAs, 0-for-5 on launches from 3-point land and committed five turnovers.

Tennessee had a 15/5 assist-to-turnover ratio, but UK had 11 assists compared to 16 turnovers. The ‘Cats got to the FT line more often, making 19-of-29 FTAs compared to 9-of-14 for UT, and held a 37-34 rebounding advantage. But terrible shooting (31.8% from the field and 26.3 percent from downtown) and too many turnovers were way too much to recover from.

Although UK has struggled to 2-4 spread record in its past six outings, it has still won 17 of its last 20 games while compiling a 13-7 ATS mark. UK is No. 5 in the NCAA’s new NET metrics and No. 9 at KenPom.com. The Wildcats are 9-3 against K-Pom Top-50 opponents and 14-5 against the Top 100. They have Top-30 scalps at Louisville, at Florida, at Auburn and at Mississippi St. in addition to a neutral-court triumph over UNC. The ‘Cats have home victories over Auburn, MSU, Kansas and UT.

Washington has emerged as a first-team All-SEC candidate as a sophomore. He is averaging 14.9 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, in addition to draining 43.5 percent of his treys and blocking 33 shots. Herro (13.9 PPG) is hitting 36.7 percent of his 3-balls and 93.4 percent of his FTAs. Keldon Johnson averages 13.4 points and 5.8 RPG.

Ole Miss has the nation’s third-best ATS record. The Rebels have lost back-to-back games, but they’ve covered the number in both defeats that were by four combined points. They dropped a 73-71 decision to Tennessee last Wednesday as 4.5-point home underdogs before losing 74-73 at Arkansas as 2.5-point ‘dogs on a day in which the Razorbacks celebrated the 25th anniversary of their 1994 national-title team led by Scotty Thurman, Corey Beck, Clint McDaniel, Al Dillard (best range in college hoops history) and Corliss ‘Big Nasty’ Williamson.

In the loss to the Hogs at Bud Walton Arena on Saturday, Arkansas snapped a six-game losing streak thanks to Jalen Harris’s game-winning layup with 5.9 seconds remaining. Ole Miss had led by eight several different times in the first half, but the game would feature 21 lead changes. Breein Tyree, who paced the Rebels with a team-best 20 points, buried a 3-pointer to put his team up 73-70 with 1:07 left.

Bruce Stevens, Devontae Shuler and Terence Davis scored 12 points apiece for Ole Miss in the losing effort. Shuler had six rebounds and four assists, while Davis pulled down five boards and handed out three helpers. The Rebels have lost three of their past four games, sneaking in a 72-71 non-covering win over Georgia as 10-point home ‘chalk.’

Ole Miss is ranked No. 37 in the NET metrics and No. 44 at K-Pom. Davis’s squad has a 4-6 record against K-Pom Top-50 foes and a 7-10 mark versus the Top 100. The Rebels’ best wins are a season sweep of Auburn, at Mississippi St. and a neutral-court scalp of Baylor. The only bad loss is at South Carolina (K-Pom #94).

Tyree averages a team-high 18.3 PPG thanks to 40.3 percent shooting from 3-point territory and an 83.2 percent rate of marksmanship from the charity stripe. Davis (15.5 PPG) paces the Rebels in assists (3.4 APG) and rebounding (5.7 RPG), while Shuler (9.8 PPG) has 89 assists and 52 steals.

Ole Miss has been a home underdog three times, going 2-1 ATS with one outright win over Auburn.

Kentucky has won nine consecutive games in this rivalry while going 6-3 ATS. The ‘Cats have covered in three straight wins that have come by margins of 18, 23 and 22 points. The ‘over’ is on a 6-2 roll in the past eight head-to-head encounters.

UK senior power forward Reid Travis, a grad transfer from Stanford, has missed three straight games with a knee injury and is ‘questionable’ tonight. Travis averages 11.3 points and 6.9 RPG.

The ‘under’ is 18-11 overall for the Rebels, 9-6 in their home games. They’ve watched the ‘under’ connect in four consecutive games and seven of their past eight.

The ‘under’ has cashed in four straight UK games and is on an 8-1 run to improve to 19-10 overall and 6-3 in its road contests.

Tip-off is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets

-- As of this morning, most spots had Tennessee listed as an eight-point home favorite vs. Mississippi State. The Bulldogs, who are 21-8 SU and 15-14 ATS, have posted a 5-4 record both SU and ATS in nine road assignments. They’ve lost by more than five points only once all season in a 76-55 defeat at Kentucky, but that was a three-point game with 12 minutes left. UT is unbeaten in 17 home games with a 7-8-1 spread ledger. The Volunteers fall into a bit of flat spot after trouncing UK at home on Saturday afternoon. This game will tip at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on the SEC Network.

-- Speaking of potential letdown scenarios, Utah State (24-6 SU, 16-13 ATS) is off a monster home win over Nevada that provided an enormous boost to its profile that more than likely ensures the Aggies of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament if they can avoid a bad loss moving forward. However, a defeat at Colorado State tonight could put Craig Smith’s team back in danger in terms of its at-large hopes (Lunardi currently has Utah St. as a No 11 seed facing sixth-seeded Villanova in Salt Lake City). This non-televised tilt in Ft. Collins will come off the board at 9:00 p.m. Eastern. Utah St. was favored by eight points at most books this morning and the total was 144.5. The Aggies are 8-4 SU and 5-7 ATS on the road, while CSU is 8-7 SU and 6-8 ATS at home.

-- Alabama, a team that’s right there with Utah State as a No. 11 seed in Lunardi’s latest projection with a first-round with No. 6 Nevada, plays host to Auburn tonight as a 2.5-point home underdog that’s +125 to win outright. Bruce Pearl’s squad is an abysmal 3-6 SU and 2-7 ATS in nine road assignments this year. The Tigers are slated as a seventh seed by Lunardi that would face North Carolina St., with the survivor most likely getting No. 2 Michigan in a Round-of-32 showdown. The SEC Network will provide television coverage at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

-- ICYMI last week: South Carolina’s A.J. Lawson is ‘out’ indefinitely with an ankle injury. Lawson was averaging 13.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.0 APG for the Gamecocks, who are 3-8 SU and 5-6 ATS on the road going into tonight’s game at Texas A&M. The Aggies were favored by 4.5 points with a total of 142 this morning. Frank Martin’s club has lost three games in a row both SU and ATS, while the Aggies are 6-2 both SU and ATS in their past eight games. This game will tip at 7:00 p.m. Eastern on the SEC Network.

-- Duke star Zion Williamson (knee) is ‘doubtful’ for tonight’s home game vs. Wake Forest on ESPN at 7:00 p.m. Eastern. The Blue Devils are 26-point ‘chalk.’

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