There isn’t a hotter team in the nation than the Kentucky Wildcats.
No, not even the beloved Duke Blue Devils have had a stretch like Kentucky has had over the last month.
Kentucky has won six straight games and nine of their last 10. Over that stretch, they’ve defeated the likes of Auburn, Kansas, Louisville, Mississippi State and North Carolina.
One game that’s hidden in the rough of that span is a low-scoring victory Kentucky had over Vanderbilt earlier this month.
Two weeks later, the two clubs will meet in Nashville for a rematch in Music City.
Kentucky’s resume over their last 10 outings speaks for itself. They’re a fluke-shooting game at Alabama away from being undefeated over that stretch. Vanderbilt, however, has fallen off a cliff since their defeat in Lexington.
The Commodores had lost back-to-back games for the first time this year before they visited the Wildcats on January 12th. Since their third-straight loss, they’ve also dropped the following four games to date.
As victims of a seven-game losing streak and injured star freshman Darius Garland officially departing from the program to prepare for the NBA draft, the Commodores are in the midst of their season falling apart. They sit at the bottom of the SEC standings as the only team winless in the conference.
According to BetOnline, Kentucky is a current -9.5 road favorite with ESPN’s Basketball Power Index giving them an 81.1% chance of victory.
While experts are predicting a comfortable victory for the Wildcats, don’t expect the Commodores to go quietly. Bryce Drew’s team held Kentucky to their lowest-scoring game of the season and, in their home building, could once again make life difficult for the Wildcats.
Kentucky received key contributions from all five starters against Kansas and has seen their reserves step up in multiple facets over recent weeks. On Tuesday, Kentucky’s backcourt will once again need to lock in on defense and allow their big men to throw their weight around in the painted area.
In terms of advanced metrics, KenPom has Kentucky ranked No. 10 overall going into Tuesday. That’s in large part to the Wildcats’ defense ranking No. 11 in defensive efficiency in comparison to No. 21 in offensive efficiency.
Vanderbilt isn’t even a top-100 team, as they currently sit at No. 113 overall. They rank No. 130 in offensive efficiency and No. 111 in defensive efficiency.
KenPom also gives Kentucky a 79% chance of winning this game, the third-highest percentage of any remaining regular-season game, trailing only South Carolina (92%) and Arkansas (86%), both of which will be in Rupp Arena.
One area where Vanderbilt is superior is actually one of the Wildcats’ biggest strengths: Getting to the free-throw line.
Vanderbilt ranks No. 9 nationally in free throws attempted per game (25.3). Kentucky isn’t far behind at No. 22 overall (24.2).
However, the Dores are converting just 69% from the charity stripe compared to 75% for the Cats.
As mentioned above, Kentucky is nearly a double-digit road favorite at Vanderbilt. Winning by that much in any SEC venue is hard to accomplish, especially in Memorial Gymnasium. Kentucky’s last six wins there have all been by single digits to go with two losses.
The last time Kentucky won by double digits at Vandy was way back in 2005. That was when Kentucky finished 29-6 and made it to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament before losing in double overtime to Michigan State.
At 16-3, this Kentucky team is certainly trending toward that kind of record, though it will hopefully feature a much better ending in the Big Dance.
To date, Kentucky’s biggest win at Vanderbilt in the John Calipari era is nine points back in the 2013-14 season. Last season, the Wildcats won by seven, though the game was tied going into the final five minutes.
- Kentucky is 10-9 ATS this season.
- Kentucky is 4-0 ATS over the last 4 games.
- Kentucky is 4-2 ATS on the road this season.
- Kentucky is 3-3 ATS in SEC play.
- Kentucky is 8-9 ATS when favored this season.
- Kentucky is 2-1 ATS when favored on the road this season.
- Vanderbilt is 7-12 ATS this season.
- Vanderbilt is 5-9 ATS at home this season.
- Vanderbilt is 1-1 ATS as a home underdog this season.
There aren’t many scenarios where Kentucky can lose this game. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t. In fact, looking ahead to Saturday’s trip to sunny Gainesville, Florida is a distraction most teams would be suspect to, especially since Kentucky has endured a three-game skid to the Gators, so you can bet the Wildcats badly want some revenge come Saturday.
However, Calipari will surely have his team ready to handle their business in Music City on Tuesday night. The only objective for the Wildcats is to sustain their momentum of winning basketball games, no matter the fashion of which they do so.
Behind an exceptional coach who seems to have a surreal connection with his team, the Wildcats earn their 17th victory of the season.
Final Score: Kentucky 70, Vanderbilt 62