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Kentucky vs Alabama NCAA Hoops – Jan 22nd

The Big East continues to feast on itself with another interesting result, Georgetown going on the road and hammering Notre Dame.  We swung and missed on that one, but I’m not sure too many folks had the Hoyas going into South Bend and winning by 17.  It’s going to be that kind of season for the Irish, much like the last three or four; they are so jump-shot dependent that on nights when the shots don’t fall, they can get run completely out of the building.  Likewise, when they ARE on, they can do the same to their opponent.  It’s a recipe that makes for an interesting season, but also almost always makes for an early exit in March Madness.

Also in the Big East, Louisville tries to bounce back from literally throwing a game away against Syracuse (and the #1 ranking along with it) with a trip to Villanova.  I personally wouldn’t want to be the Wildcats tonight, but I am staying away from this game as laying 12 on the road feels a bit like a coin-flip to me; The ‘Ville wins, but I’m projecting a game that finishes right around the number.

Instead, my pick tonight focuses on the SEC and a team I have beaten up and taken to task in this space a few times recently, the Kentucky Wildcats.

Kentucky Wildcats -3 at Alabama Crimson Tide

It’s been a pretty uninspired hoops season so far in Tuscaloosa, but fortunately for the team, as long as Nick Saban keeps bringing home crystal balls, no one really seems to notice too much.  But you can expect the pigskin-crazed fans to be out in full force tonight for Kentucky.  Despite some of the struggles of these young Cats, it is still always a marquee game for the home opponent when Coach Cal and the Cats come calling.

Alabama is going to need a better effort than they’ve displayed recently to knock off Kentucky.   Yes, they’ve won three in a row, so that inspires some confidence, but their most recent 50-49 win over Texas A&M was far from inspiring.  And here’s where today’s pick gets interesting.  Kentucky LOST at home to that same pedestrian Texas A&M team…

Don’t fall into the one game direct comparison trap and walk away saying Bama MUST be the better team.  Look a little deeper into body of work for each squad.  IF you throw out that A&M game and chalk it up as just a terrible off day, Kentucky has won 10 of 11 games, including a 3-0 SEC record with two road wins, and their only loss a 3-point tussle at Louisville.  As much as I’ve profited off getting TONS of points betting against them, they truly aren’t the “awful” basketball team they are being made out to be.  They simply aren’t a Top Ten team.  And that’s OK, because aside from Florida and Missouri no one in the SEC is really even a legit Top 25 team.  Pretty good might just be good enough this season.

I think Kentucky’s ‘pretty good’ will be precisely good enough tonight at Alabama.  Bama has a decent backcourt, but has no answer for the frontcourt length of Kentucky.  Each game that passes UK gets a little more fluid on offense, but more importantly begins to help each other a little more on the defensive end.  Look for them to make it difficult for Bama to get open looks tonight and to take the crowd out of the game.

I like Kentucky, admittedly a high risk/reward pick, even laying the three on the road to come out with a solid winning effort tonight.

Free Pick:  Kentucky Wildcats -3