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Kentucky at Auburn: Analysis, betting trends, expert picks & predictions

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A look at how basketball experts and oddsmakers view Kentucky vs. Auburn.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday afternoon, Kentucky will hit the road for the third time during their five-game stretch of SEC play.

Their first away game at Alabama came via frustration and heartbreak, as Kentucky blew a halftime lead to fall 77-75. Their second, though, delivered a win at Georgia in blowout fashion.

Now, the 12th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats will take their three game winning streak back to Alabama to face Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Tigers.

Analysis

According to the latest Associated Press Top-25 poll, Kentucky (12th) is ranked two slots ahead of Auburn (14th). In Matt Norlander’s Power Rankings, Kentucky ranks 13th while Auburn is 17th.

Rankings will be put aside for Saturday’s match-up, though, as Auburn has the home court advantage as well as the veteran backcourt. The duo of junior Jared Harper and senior Bryce Brown is considered the SEC’s best backcourt.

However, come Saturday, Kentucky’s freshman tandem of Ashton Hagans and Tyler Herro will have something to say about that.

Hagans is the reigning SEC Freshman of the Week and rightfully so. He’s recorded three or more steals in six consecutive games, setting a program record. He’s also scored in double figures in his last five outings, with the latest contributing a career-high 23 points.

The freshman point guard isn’t just a defensive nemesis and scoring option, though, considering he’s dished out four or more assists in six of his last eight games.

Herro, the team’s shooting guard, has scored at least ten points in nine of his last ten appearances. He’s started every game for the Wildcats, consistently finding ways to put the ball in the basket. Herro has proved he is more than a scorer, too, by contributing feisty off-ball defense.

Head coach John Calipari’s backcourt will have a heavy influence on Saturday’s outcome, but that’s not all. Freshman wing Keldon Johnson is regarded as the team’s top prospect. However, he was held to an egg in Kentucky’s last game at Georgia. Look for the team to get him going early in this one.

Joining Johnson in the front court has been veterans PJ Washington and Reid Travis, but also energizers EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards off the bench. Whichever two contribute the most effort early on should receive the most run.

Betting Trends

Kentucky

  • Kentucky is 13-2 SU in its last 15 games
  • The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Kentucky’s last 6 games
  • Kentucky is 4-2 ATS in its last 6 games on the road
  • Kentucky is 4-2 SU in its last 6 games on the road
  • Kentucky is 1-3-1 ATS in its last 5 games when playing Auburn
  • Kentucky is 19-2 SU in its last 21 games when playing Auburn
  • Kentucky is 2-4 ATS in its last 6 games when playing on the road against Auburn
  • The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Kentucky’s last 5 games when playing on the road against Auburn

Auburn

  • Auburn is 3-6 ATS in its last 9 games
  • Auburn is 9-2 SU in its last 11 games
  • The total has gone UNDER in 11 of Auburn’s last 13 games when playing Kentucky
  • Auburn is 2-8 SU in its last 10 games when playing at home against Kentucky

KenPom projected the Wildcats to be a 4.5-point underdog. Sure enough, that’s the official spread as of Friday afternoon.

Picks

Sports Illustrated is going with a 77-72 win for Auburn.

CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander is going with Auburn.

TopBet is going with a 78-74 win for Kentucky.

Over at Cats Illustrated, three of their four writers are going with Kentucky.

ESPN BPI gives Auburn a 68.5% chance of defeating Kentucky.

ESPN’s Jeff Borzello has Kentucky beating Auburn as his surprise pick for the weekend:

Are we positive Auburn is a top-three SEC team? The Tigers have lost their three toughest games this season: Duke, NC State and Ole Miss. I know they haven’t lost a home game in the past two seasons, but I think the Wildcats can come out with a win. The key will be Ashton Hagans taking care of the ball.

Mark Story of the Herald-Leader is going with an 86-83 win for the home Tigers.

Our own staff had two picks for Kentucky and three for Auburn.

Prediction

Both teams sit at 13-3, but ESPN’s Basketball Power Index is giving Kentucky just a 31.5% chance of upset. The Wildcats are by far the younger team, especially when it comes to their offensive players.

However, they have one advantage no team in the SEC seems to have: Ashton Hagans. Hagans has single-handedly willed the Wildcats’ to a three-game win streak, and while it’s been against inferior competition, his teammates seem to be due a performance to back him up.

Kentucky won’t go quietly and should have a chance to steal a win late in the ballgame.

Final Score: Kentucky 78, Auburn 74