The Kentucky Wildcats are playing their best basketball of the season, fresh off a 2-0 week that represents a blowout win at Georgia and a top-15 victory at Auburn. Now, as Kentucky prepares for a two-game home slate this week, the Wildcats look to face the 22nd-ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Kentucky enters the game having won four consecutive games since their second-half debacle at Alabama. Their play over the past two weeks has only elevated and will be required to do so on Tuesday night. Mississippi State, despite being 2-2 over their last two weeks of action, has won two consecutive that includes a quality win over Florida and a blowout victory at Vanderbilt.
The Bulldogs don’t boast a top-25 win yet this season, though. In fact, Tuesday night will be just their fourth true road game of the season and second in as many games. The Wildcats most recently fared well on the road against a quality opponent, but it’s unsure if Mississippi State will be able to do the same.
If Kentucky wants to avoid being upset, they should first look in the direction of their frontcourt. The starting duo of PJ Washington and Reid Travis set the tone during Saturday’s win against Auburn, dominating the paint early to open up wing scoring via Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro.
The frontcourt’s physical presence also led to game-long foul trouble, which should be a focal point in getting Mississippi State’s Aric Holman (2.2 blocks per game) out of the paint.
After two steals were re-credited to Ashton Hagans following the win at Auburn, he officially recorded his seventh-consecutive game with at least three. He’ll likely draw the assignment of Quinndary Weatherspoon, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer at over 16 points per game.
Tuesday’s match-up has the potential to become a high scoring affair, bringing more emphasis to the defensive side of the ball. Kentucky seems to have a clear advantage, with ESPN’s Basketball Power Index giving the Wildcats’ a 75.3% chance of victory.
Looking at the advanced metrics, KenPom has Kentucky ranked 13th overall in the nation, 21st in offense, 17th in defense and 207th in adjusted tempo.
As for Mississippi State, KenPom has the Bulldogs ranked 21st overall, 20th in offense, 53rd in defense and 208th in adjusted tempo. Neither team prefers an up-tempo game but are efficient enough on offense for this game to get into the 70s.
KenPom is projecting a 75-69 win for Kentucky, while TeamRankings is going with a 76-68 victory for the home team.
Kentucky opened as an eight-point favorite, though the line has already dropped to 6.5 in some sportsbooks. Kentucky has covered the spread just four times this season when playing at home, though neither team is particularly good at covering the spread.
Here are some more betting trends for both teams:
- Kentucky is 8-9 ATS this season.
- Kentucky is 7-6 ATS following a win this season.
- The total has gone OVER in 9 games for Kentucky this season vs. UNDER for the other 8.
- Kentucky is 4-6 ATS when playing at home.
- Kentucky is 2-3 ATS in SEC play.
- Kentucky is 0-2 ATS at home in SEC play.
- Kentucky is 15-1 SU in its last 16 games at home.
- Kentucky has just four home losses since the 2014-15 season.
- Mississippi State is 8-9 ATS this season.
- Mississippi State is 2-1 ATS when playing on the road.
- Mississippi State is 7-6 ATS following a win.
- Mississippi State is 1-3 ATS in SEC play.
- Mississippi State is 1-1 ATS on the road in SEC play.
- The total has gone OVER in 8 games for Mississippi State this season vs. UNDER for the other 8, plus 1 tie.
- Kentucky is 11-0 SU vs. Mississippi State over their last 11 matchups.
Kentucky has now had Ashton Hagans, Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro each win SEC Freshman of the Week twice this season. Behind stellar play from their guards, backed by paint dominance from their big men, Kentucky should have what it takes to keep their winning streak alive. While you can expect Mississippi State to bring a dog fight, Kentucky will pull away late to close the deal.
Final Score: Kentucky 76, Mississippi State 71