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Kentucky vs. South Carolina: Analysis, betting trends & prediction

Kentucky looks to extend its winning streak as a feisty Gamecocks club comes to Rupp.

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at South Carolina Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The surge continues on for the Kentucky Wildcats, as they saw their place in the Associated Press Top-25 rankings improve for the fifth consecutive week.

Head coach John Calipari and his group of Wildcats are now ranked as the nation’s fifth-best team. As winners of eight straight, they’ll put their streak on the line Tuesday at home against the South Carolina Gamecocks.

Analysis

Kentucky enters the game as one of the NCAA’s hottest teams. The Wildcats have won in every fashion over the last four weeks, most recently pulling off a comeback win at Gainesville. As they return home, it will be key for Calipari’s team to avoid their usual first-half struggles against the Gamecocks.

Luckily for the Wildcats, South Carolina is a sub-par three point shooting team. In fact, their strength remains inside the paint with Chris Silva. However, that is also the bread and butter of Kentucky.

In regards to the painted area, SEC Co-Player of the Week PJ Washington and Reid Travis been as dominant as any duo Calipari has coached during his tenure with Kentucky. Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery are also starting to emerge as legitimate rim protectors who could help keep Silva in check for all 40 minutes.

With shooting guard Tyler Herro in rhythm and point guard Ashton Hagans looking to bounce back from an inconsistent performance last Saturday, Kentucky should have plenty to play for come Tuesday night.

While the matchup may be downplayed in terms of a middle-of-the-week game, along with Kentucky opening as double-digit favorites, Frank Martin and his Gamecocks will be prepared to play an intense game of basketball.

Calipari knows this and knows that his team has little margin for error with their sights set on a 1 seed for this spring NCAA Tournament. The Kentucky staff will have their players ready to go from the tip in search of controlling the game early and sealing the deal late.

While this game looks like a mismatch on paper, it’s even bigger when you look at the advanced analytics. KenPom has South Carolina ranked 102nd overall, 112nd in defensive efficiency and 90th in offensive efficiency.

Kentucky, on the other hand, is ranked ninth overall, eighth in defensive efficiency and 17th in offensive efficiency.

One area South Carolina may give Kentucky problems is on the offensive boards. The Gamecocks grab 9.8 offensive boards per game, which ranks 38th nationally. Kentucky allows 8.2 offensive boards per game, which ranks 150th.

South Carolina also blocks 4.3 shots per game, which ranks 52nd. Kentucky allows opponents to block 3.1 shots per game, which ranks 137th.

Still, this is a game Kentucky should control from start to finish, whether it’s in the paint or on the perimeter.

Betting Trends

Kentucky has covered the spread in six-straight games, but making it seven will be tough. Oddsmakers have pegged the Wildcats as 18-point home favorites. Kentucky is 4-6 against the spread when favored by double digits at home, including two straight losses (Texas A&M and Vanderbilt).

It’s also going to be easy for Kentucky to overlook the Gamecocks with an upcoming three-game stretch against ranked Mississippi State, LSU and Tennessee teams, the latter being No. 1 overall.

Kentucky

  • Kentucky is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games
  • Kentucky is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
  • The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Kentucky’s last 7 games
  • Kentucky is 4-1 ATS in its last 5 games when playing South Carolina
  • Kentucky is 10-2 SU in its last 12 games when playing South Carolina
  • Kentucky is 5-1 ATS in its last 6 games when playing at home against South Carolina
  • Kentucky is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing at home against South Carolina
  • The total has gone OVER in 10 of Kentucky’s last 14 games when playing at home against South Carolina

South Carolina

  • South Carolina is 6-3 ATS in its last 9 games
  • South Carolina is 7-3 SU in its last 10 games
  • The total has gone OVER in 5 of South Carolina’s last 5 games
  • South Carolina is 4-2 ATS in its last 6 games on the road
  • South Carolina is 4-11 SU in its last 15 games on the road
  • The total has gone OVER in 5 of South Carolina’s last 6 games on the road
  • South Carolina is 1-4 ATS in its last 5 games when playing Kentucky
  • South Carolina is 2-10 SU in its last 12 games when playing Kentucky
  • South Carolina is 1-5 ATS in its last 6 games when playing on the road against Kentucky
  • South Carolina is 0-5 SU in its last 5 games when playing on the road against Kentucky
  • The total has gone OVER in 10 of South Carolina’s last 14 games when playing on the road against Kentucky

Prediction

The Wildcats are one of college basketball’s most well-rounded teams. Each member knows their role and the unit as a whole has been in sync over the last four weeks. Expect that trend to continue on Tuesday night as Kentucky controls the tempo early en route to their ninth-straight victory.

Final score: Kentucky 75, South Carolina 61