We have a blockbuster slate of games on tap for you today as nearly all of the nation’s top teams will be in action. The headlining game comes to you from Lawrence, Kansas where the Kansas Jayhawks host the Texas Longhorns in a battle of top-10 teams. The Big 12 also features games between Baylor and Iowa State, TCU and K-State, West Virginia and Oklahoma, and OK State and Texas Tech. The Big 12 is competing with the Big 10 for the title of best league in the land, and not to be outdone, the Big 10 has an impressive slate of games today as well.
In Big 10 action, Rutgers hosts Iowa in a game between two of the top teams in the conference, with both teams ranked nationally. Purdue plays at Illinois, with the Illini trying to right their ship in league play after starting slow. And the nightcap comes to us from Nebraska, as the Cornhuskers will try and stop Michigan State from winning their first conference game of the season after starting out 0-3.
— Kansas Basketball (@KUHoops) January 2, 2021
Sadly, the ACC won’t be able to display their best teams today as the games between Virginia and Virginia Tech and Duke and Florida State have all been postponed due to Corona Virus concerns. The Big East also feels the COVID-19 sting today as the game between Xavier and Villanova won’t be played today and will be made up later this year.
The final power conference, the SEC, will have a full schedule today as twelve of the fourteen teams will play. Arkansas hosts Missouri, Florida and LSU square off in the swamp, Texas A&M plays Auburn, Alabama plays at Tennessee, and Kentucky plays Mississippi State in Starkville. For our free daily betting pick, we will head to Starkville for the game between the Wildcats and the Bulldogs!
- Kentucky Wildcats (1-6) at Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-3)
- Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville
- 3:00 PM PST
- TV: SECN
The Mississippi State Bulldogs host the Kentucky Wildcats tonight in a game between two teams struggling for relevancy in the SEC. The Bulldogs were expected to finish near the basement of the league this year, but after going 3-3 in their first six games, they have now won three straight, including their league play opener against Georgia. Mississippi State will be looking for their first win over the Wildcats since 2009, when Billy Gillespie was the head coach for Kentucky.
New Year. Fresh Start. Saturday @SEC showdown.
🏟 – Starkville, Miss.
⏰ – 6 p.m. ET
📺 @SECNetwork – https://t.co/LXSKyZp1u7
📻 @UKSportsNetwork – https://t.co/MypeDqiTmk
📈 – https://t.co/NF9tO2GBII
📰 – https://t.co/BR8d21wJBi
🗺 – https://t.co/Du5zpHzlaf
🙋♂ – @lanceware12 pic.twitter.com/udFDpQ9NJz
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) January 2, 2021
For Kentucky, the Wildcats came into this season thinking they had a shot at the Final Four, but after a brutal 1-6 start, including a six-game losing streak, Coach Cal’s boys are just looking to stop the bleeding and win a game. The Wildcats have played one of the toughest schedules in the country, and none of their six losses have come to teams ranked outside of the top-100, but in a loaded SEC, there just aren’t going to be many soft games on the schedule for Kentucky and they need to be able to beat quality teams if they are going to get back on track in this once promising season.
Kentucky Wildcats (1-6)
If you have been reading my college basketball converge this year, you will know how I feel about the Kentucky Wildcats. I felt that it was laughable that they were the favorites to win the SEC over more deserving teams like Florida, LSU, and Tennessee, and while I acknowledged that they had a lot of talent on the roster, I also noted that they were very young and inexperienced and would need time to gel. I wouldn’t say I was a Kentucky hater, but I just felt that they were being way overrated.
That being said, I certainly didn’t expect to see this Wildcats team sitting at 1-6 right now. And really, when you look at how Kentucky has lost, they are just a couple of bounces their way away from having several more wins. They lost to Kansas, Notre Dame, and Louisville, all by three points or fewer.
Losing a one-possession game is always tough, and the Wildcats have made a habit of it this year. Had they won each of those games instead of stumbling late, and they were sitting at 4-3 with some signature wins on their resume, people would be viewing this team a lot differently right now.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (6-3)
The SEC has a bunch of NCAA tournament level teams this year; I’m not sure that the Mississippi State Bulldogs are one of them. The Bulldogs lost a lot from last year’s bubble team, and they are relying on a lot of freshman and sophomores to get the job done. There is talent on this roster, but in a league as talented as the SEC, there is a fairly significant talent gap between the Bulldogs and the middle of the league.
Ben Howland’s team did a great job of winning on the road in their SEC opener against Georgia, but Georgia isn’t going to win many games in the SEC this season either. The rest of Mississippi State’s wins have all come against teams outside of the top-100. Miss State lost to Clemson on opening night, and that loss was forgivable for sure as the Tigers are legit, but the losses to Dayton and Liberty, two teams that won’t sniff an at-large bid this season, are ugly blemishes on their record.
Who Do I Like?
After this slow start, Kentucky has gone from the most overrated team in the nation to maybe the most underrated one. Is this the best 1-6 team ever? If this isn’t the best team to lose six out of their first seven games ever, I am sure it is the most talented one, as there are NBA players all over this roster. You can’t deny that they haven’t played well. But there is playing bad, and then there is losing to Mississippi State bad.
The Wildcats don’t lose to Mississippi State. Like ever. These two teams have been playing basketball against each other since 1933, and the lifetime series shows Kentucky winning 91 of the 109 all-time matchups. That’s almost 84% winners, going back nearly a century. John Calipari has never once lost to Mississippi State in his tenure coaching at Kentucky, and I don’t see him bucking that trend tonight.
This is a bad number. Kentucky has played poorly at the end of games against solid competition. Yeah, the losses are starting to pile up, but at some point, this team is going to start figuring things out and winning games. BJ Boston was the consensus top recruit in the nation this year, he can’t possibly keep shooting 18% from three-point land. And that goes for Terrance Clarke as well, as he was another 5-star kid that has shot the basketball awful.
No team in the country has more upside than Kentucky right now in terms of regressing towards the mean. This was the top recruiting class in the country, and on paper, it was potentially an all-time great class, they are going to get their act together at some point, and I think that starts tonight against one of their favorite punching bags, Mississippi State.
The fact that I only have to lay one point shows some really nice value, as I think the Wildcats are going to be the far superior team in terms of athleticism of the floor tonight. It’s hard to win games when your best players are playing so poorly, but tonight just might be a coming out party for the young Wildcats. Give me the Kentucky Wildcats tonight, laying -1-point on the road in Starkville!