We had a nice college basketball run snapped last night with Ole Miss failing to cover by a single point on a late free throw. Close, but close doesn’t count. It goes down as a recent rare one in the loser’s column. It’s another pretty barren landscape on the college basketball front tonight, so there’s really only one good option on the docket; Kentucky vs. Baylor.
It will be an interesting test for the Wildcats to face a team that has already squared off with an elite team on a neutral floor; Syracuse. Kentucky has also faced an elite team on a neutral floor, but that Michigan State game was almost a month ago – eternity for a freshman-led and evolving team.
So – how much have these young Cats grown under Coach Cal? We will find out tonight. So let’s dig inside this matchup for a winning wagering edge.
Tonight’s Free Pick:
Kentucky Wildcats +5 vs. Baylor Bears (@ AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX)
While this game isn’t on Baylor’s home floor, it is a de facto home game for the Bears. But more importantly, it is a great Final Four simulation for both teams playing in massive and cavernous AT&T Stadium. It is always interesting to see how shooters fare against these difficult backdrops, but I’m not sure that gives either team a definitive advantage/disadvantage as both teams rely on the three ball and both teams have a post presence to help offset shooting woes.
Baylor looked good against Syracuse. They lost the game, but Syracuse is going to beat a ton of folks this year and are one of the most difficult road/neutral floor non-conference matchups in the country due to their unique defensive style and immense talent level and athleticism. I think that game gives Baylor a slight edge tonight, as they have seen Kentucky-level athletes (OK, not quite a Julius Randle) and fared just fine.
I don’t think tonight is going to be a great night for Isiah Austin. Randle and Cauley-Stein are a bit too much for him inside, but I think Baylor will use the home crowd and a deep stable of wings to offset the interior strength of Kentucky.
Here’s the biggest factor – Kentucky struggles against zone defenses. They have for years and have especially struggled last year against these same Baylor Bears. If Baylor can force them to shoot outside (and I think they can) they have a huge advantage.
This line keeps spreading Kentucky’s way. It opened at 3.5 and has widened to 5. I’m going against the herd tonight and taking the de facto home team.
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