Kentucky Wildcats at Tennessee Volunteers – NCAAM February 20

Kentucky (7-13, 6-7) at No. 19 Tennessee (15-5, 8-5)

  • Time: 10 a.m. PST – 12 CST – 1 EST
  • Place: Thompson-Boling Assembly Center, Knoxville, Tenn.
  • TV: CBS

Opening Tip:

Kentucky visits Knoxville as the Wildcats have won two in a row to squash a four-game losing streak as they beat Auburn and Vanderbilt by a combined total of six points. Tennessee checks in after a 93-73 win over South Carolina on Wednesday night as the Volunteers have won three out of four games.

Kentucky leads this longstanding series 156-75 and they have a slim 53-51 advantage in Knoxville. The Vols have won four out of five meetings in Knoxville and six of their last nine against Kentucky.

Tennessee won the earlier meeting in Lexington, 82-71, as Keon Johnson and Jaden Springer combined for 50 points (27/23) and Tennessee erased a 10-point second half deficit as the two freshmen scored 18 in a row to accentuate that surge.

A cool storyline from the game is that Kentucky transfer Olivier Saar and Tennessee’s Yves Pons grew up in France where they often played games against each other until they landed on the same team at INSEP Academy and on the French National Team.

Vs. The Spread

Kentucky:

  • The Wildcats are 0-5-1 ATS n their last 6 games
  • The total has gone OVER in 5 of Kentucky’s last 5 games
  • The ‘Cats are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 vs. Tennessee

Tennessee:

  • The Vols are 3-6 ATS in their last 9 games
  • The total has gone OVER in 4 of Tennessee’s last 6 games
  • The OVER has also been the play in 6 of UT’s last 7 home games

Last Time Out:

Davion Mintz scored 18 points and Jacob Toppin scored 12 of his 16 in the second half as Kentucky edged Vanderbilt, 82-78, on Wednesday night. The Wildcats blew a 17-point lead as Vanderbilt was able to get within one at 74-73 with 1:03 remaining before Toppin and Brandon Boston, Jr., closed the game out with free throws.

Victor Bailey, Jr., hit 7-of-10 triples and scored a career high 29 points as Tennessee ran past South Carolina, 93-73, in Knoxville on Wednesday. John Fulkerson added 19 and Jaden Springer netted 16 as the Vols scored 50 first half points.

Teams Spread Money Line Total Points
Kentucky +7 (-115) O 134½ (-115)
Tennessee -7 (-105) U 134½ (-105)

Advantage, Kentucky:

Kentucky Wildcats LogoAlthough finding offense has been a chore for the Wildcats this season, they have been able to put together offensive surges at some points in the last three games which has allowed them to go 2-1 since their loss at home to Tennessee four games ago. They made 25 threes combined against Arkansas and Auburn although in these three games, they have still shot around their season average of 41 percent. The Wildcats need to be in the mid-40s percentage wise and then hit double digits in three against the defensive prowess of the Volunteers. Isaiah Jackson has averaged 16.5 points over his last two games while Brandon Boston, Jr., has averaged 15.3 over his last three outings.

Key Wildcats Stat:

Kentucky has made 33 three-pointers over the last three games which ties for the most in any three-game span since John Calipari became the Wildcats’ coach. In addition, UK has scored at least 80 points in these last three games after hitting the 80-mark only once in the first 17 outings.

X-Factor:

Olivier Saar and Isaiah Jackson need big outings inside if the Wildcats are to upset Tennessee. We mentioned Jackson’s last two games earlier, but Saar has been steady over his last four games as he has made 16 of 33 shots and averaged 11.5 points per game and 4.8 boards per contest over those four.

Advantage, Tennessee:

Tennessee Volunteers LogoCoach Rick Barnes implores his Volunteers to keep the game in transition and be aggressive with the ball on offense. When they do this, they play well as they have shown in winning five of their last seven games. Jaden Springer has taken off over the last four games as he has averaged 18 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in his last four while Keon Johnson is averaging 19 ppg. over the same period. Springer (12.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg) leads four Vols in double figures including Johnson, Victor Bailey, Jr., and John Fulkerson.

Key Vols Stat:

The Vols are forcing 15.9 turnovers per game while converting those turnovers into 17.6 points per game. Tennessee’s turnover margin stands at +3.9 (17th/NCAA). Kentucky coughs it up at a rate of 14.7 turnovers per outing, so the Volunteers locking in on the perimeter defense against the Wildcats guards and forcing turnovers will be a factor.

X-Factor:

The point guard play of Santiago Vescovi is going to be key down the stretch for Tennessee as he has to erase some turnovers and potentially look for his shot more. He is 10-25 for the field over his last three games and has gotten to the line 12 times and has made all 12 of his free throws during that time.

Winner: Tennessee (-7) 74 Kentucky 66

The Bets
Tennessee (-7)
-105
Tennessee
-310
OVER 134½
-115
Sub Categories:
Kenneth Cross / Author

Kenneth Cross is a new entry to The Sports Geek staff as he has 25 years of experience in print, broadcast, and internet sports journalism. Cross is a lover of all sports, but college basketball is his passion. He estimates that he has seen around 1,500 college basketball games - live and in-person - and hopes that grows this season. If you listen to Radio, you have likely heard him on Sundays covering the Carolina Panthers for some 20 years. Now in Tampa Bay, he works as a national radio correspondent.