All victories, no matter the margin, are sweet.
However, blowing the doors off of a top-ranked Tennessee team at Rupp Arena is as sweet as a victory gets during the regular season. On Saturday night, the Kentucky Wildcats tasted that sweet victory but will need to quickly move on to their road game at Missouri on Tuesday night.
The No. 4 Wildcats (21-4) will visit Columbia, MO to take on the Missouri Tigers (12-12) as they look to continue their climb up the Associated Press rankings.
Per ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, Kentucky enters the game with a 87.3% chance of victory. Considering Kentucky will be away from home, the analytical prediction seems a bit substantial. However, the Tigers haven’t been very convincing of their legitimacy this season.
Missouri sits at just 12-12 this season after losing Jontay Porter to a ACL tear back in October. The Tigers rank 290th in scoring offense but do put forth a stingy defense that ranks 95th. However, their low-scoring offense will have the task of battling a Kentucky defense that has mostly feasted against lesser competition this season.
Specifically, with Porter sidelined, Missouri ranks just 243rd in defensive rebounding. Kentucky even dismantled the rebounding efforts of the veteran Tennessee Volunteers on Saturday and should have an even greater advantage this Tuesday.
Southeastern Conference Player of the Week PJ Washington will be the focal point of the Tigers’ defense, as the star sophomore enters the game averaging 21.5 points over his last four games. The hot shooting of freshman guard Keldon Johnson and hard-nosed defense of freshman guard Ashton Hagans should also worry the Tigers.
In addition to head coach John Calipari’s starting five, the recent elevation of EJ Montgomery from Kentucky’s bench should give opponents nightmares. With Missouri’s struggles on the glass, Montgomery could have another successful outing.
In terms of advanced analytics, KenPom now has Kentucky ranked fifth overall. That’s thanks in large part to Kentucky ranking eighth in defensive efficiency, but the offense is starting to catch up, as the Cats now rank 14th in offensive efficiency.
What’s even more impressive is Kentucky now has eight wins over KenPom top-30 teams, five of which have been away from Rupp Arena.
Missouri, on the other hand, enters the game ranked 94th in KenPom. They rank 72nd in defensive efficiency and 153rd in offensive efficiency.
The Tigers have just one win over a KenPom top-50 team, and that was at home vs. 49th-ranked UCF back in December. Their next best win is a one-point home win over 61st-ranked Arkansas last week.
Making things even worse is Missouri has three losses to teams ranked outside of the top 70, including Temple (75th), South Carolina (93rd) and Texas A&M (98th).
Kentucky opened as a 10.5-point favorite over the Tigers. The Cats have covered the spread in eight of their last 10 games. They failed to cover against LSU and had a push at Mississippi State.
- 15-10 vs. the spread this season
- 13-10 vs. the spread as favorite
- 13-7 vs. the spread following a win
- 10-6 vs. the spread with 2-3 days off
- 6-1 vs. the spread as road team
- 5-1 vs. the spread as road favorite
- 8-4 vs. the spread against SEC teams
- 10-13-1 vs. the spread this season
- 6-9 vs. the spread as underdog
- 4-7 vs. the spread following a loss
- 5-7-1 vs. the spread with 2-3 days off
- 6-6-1 vs. the spread as home team
- 3-3 vs. the spread as home underdog
- 4-8 vs. the spread against SEC teams
Most teams, no matter how good they are, fall back down to Earth after playing their best game of the season. Kentucky was physically overpowering on the basketball court against Tennessee, leading to a highly satisfied John Calipari after the contest’s conclusion. While the team looks to be clicking on all-cylinders, Calipari will still make sure his team is prepared for an all-out effort from the Tigers. With mental toughness and detailed preparation, Kentucky rolls on in a physical mismatch for Missouri.
Final Score: Kentucky 81, Missouri 58