Last Updated Dec 26, 2021, 6:49 PM

UNC Tar Heels vs. Kentucky Wildcats Picks, Predictions, Odds

Dec. 18, 2021
Dan Dobish
VI Betting Expert

The North Carolina Tar Heels (8-2) and Kentucky Wildcats (7-2) hook up for a neutral-floor battle at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. ET, and the game can be viewed on CBS.

Score Prediction

North Carolina 74, Kentucky 66

Best Bets

UNC +1.5 (-110) BetMGM

Under 147.5 (-110) BetMGM

UNC Tar Heels vs. Kentucky Wildcats Predictions

Originally, UNC was to face UCLA in the first of a two-game card which featured Ohio State taking on Kentucky. COVID issues within the UCLA and Ohio State programs caused those two teams to pause activities, so North Carolina and Kentucky will get together in a blue blood battle in the desert instead.

North Carolina lost a pair of games to Purdue and Tennessee on a neutral floor in Uncasville, Conn. around Thanksgiving. The Tar Heels have since rebounded, posting five consecutive wins, including a resounding 21-point win over Michigan, and an ACC victory at Georgia Tech by 17 points to get untracked.

Kentucky is looking to bounce back after a surprising 66-62 loss at Notre Dame against a very mediocre Irish team. That snapped a seven-game win streak dating back to Kentucky's only other setback on Nov. 9 on a neutral floor against Duke at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

UNC Tar Heels vs. Kentucky Wildcats Betting Odds

  • UINC +105
  • Kentucky -125
  • UNC +1.5 (-110)
  • Kentucky -1.5 (-110)
  • Over 147.5 (-110)
  • Under 147.5 (-110)

More Odds | Futures Odds

UNC Tar Heels vs. Kentucky Wildcats Betting Resources

  • Matchup: ACC vs. SEC
  • Date: Saturday, December 18, 2021
  • Venue: T-Mobile Arena
  • Location: Las Vegas, Nevada
  • TV-Time: CBS - 5:30 p.m. ET

UNC Tar Heels Betting Analysis

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • SU: 8-2
  • ATS: 3-7
  • O/U: 4-6

Carolina won and covered last time out on Tuesday against an underrated Furman team, winning 74-61 as 10.5-point favorites. UNC hit exactly half of its 60 field-goal attempts, and Armando Bacot went for 14 points, 12 rebounds and one blocked shot, while Dawson Garcia also checked in with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Both players hit 7-of-12 from the field.

After opening the season 0-6 ATS, the Tar Heels have covered in three of the past four games. Defense has been a major reason for the turnaround, too, as Hubert Davis' team has allowed 61, 63, 62, 51 and 53 points across the past five outings after yielding 89, 93, 83 and 87 in the previous four outings. And while yes, the Tennessee and Purdue games were in that four-game stretch, they also had Charleston hang 83 on them, and Brown post 87, so the D has come a long way. Davis has started to shorten up the rotation, and it's working.

The UNDER is 5-0 across the past five outings after a 4-0 OVER run from Nov. 12-21. On a neutral floor, the Heels are 0-2 SU/ATS, with the OVER cashing in each game. The Heels have lost four neutral-site games in a row, too, going 0-3-1 ATS with the OVER going 3-1.

Kentucky Wildcats Betting Analysis

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS, Over-Under (O/U)

  • SU: 7-2
  • ATS: 3-6
  • O/U: 3-6

The Wildcats enter this game on an 0-3 ATS skid, and they're 3-6 ATS overall, failing to cover in consecutive games at any point this season. And Kentucky lost its only previous neutral-site game against Duke, failing to cover while the OVER hit. Kentucky has also lost each of its past six on a neutral floor, including against North Carolina last Dec. 19, a 75-63 Tar Heels win at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. So something gotta's give here, as one of these blue blood programs will end a losing streak on neutral floors.

Kentucky's last cover on a neutral floor came Dec. 1, 2020 with a 65-62 loss as four-point underdogs. It's last victory in a neutral-site game came Nov. 5, 2019, a 69-62 victory over Michigan State at Madison Square Garden as three-point underdogs as the UNDER connected.

Inside the Stats - UNC Tar Heels

  • Record: 8-2
  • VI Ranking: 22
  • PS/G: 80.4 (40th)
  • PA/G: 70.9 (246th)
  • ORtg: 112.1 (38th)
  • DRtg: 98.9 (228th)

Inside the Stats - Kentucky Wildcats

  • Record: 7-2
  • VI Ranking: 26
  • PS/G: 80.3 (41st)
  • PA/G: 61.4 (54th)
  • ORtg: 115.3 (16th)
  • DRtg: 88.2 (48th)

Key Players to Watch

  • UNC: Armando Bacot - F (14.3 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 1.6 APG)
  • UNC: Caleb Love - G (16.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.6 SPG)
  • UK: Oscar Tshiebwe - F (16.3 PPG, 14.4 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 1.4 SPG, 1.2 APG)
  • UK: Tyty Washington Jr. - G (13.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.0 SPG)

UNC Tar Heels vs. Kentucky Wildcats Betting Conclusion

The Tar Heels have been building momentum, and their ceiling looks to be awfully high. They might be unranked now, but this is a team on the rise, and they're starting to jell rather nicely after a slow start under Davis. Bacot, in particular, is starting to emerge as a legit NBA prospect and top player in the ACC. This UNC team has been bombs away from downtown, too, hitting 40.9% to rank seventh in the nation, and that's something Kentucky will have to be very aware of.

The Wildcats have really struggled on neutral floors, for whatever reason. The competition is generally pretty stout, but the Wildcats are also a very good team, obviously. But there is a little doubt among bettors after Kentucky lost to a very average Notre Dame team in South Bend last weekend. They even struggled against Southern, winning by just 12 points as a 30.5-point favorite. Like UNC, Kentucky's defense has picked up the pace, allowing just 61.4 PPG overall this season. They're so-so against the three, and that could be the key here in determining a winner. I think UNC pulls away in the second half for a healthy win.

UNC Tar Heels vs. Kentucky Wildcats Betting Trends

  • UNC is 3-7 ATS in the past 10 games overall.
  • Kentucky is 1-4 ATS in the past five games overall.
  • Kentucky is 1-5 ATS in the past six neutral-site games.
  • The UNDER is 5-0 in the past five games overall for UNC.
  • The OVER is 5-1 in the past six neutral-site games for UNC.
  • The UNDER is 6-1 in the past seven games overall for Kentucky.

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