KENTUCKY WILDCATS (11-3)
at VANDERBILT COMMODORES (8-5)
Memorial Gym - Nashville, TN
Tip-off: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET
Line: Kentucky -8
In search of a season-defining win, Vanderbilt will host No. 14 Kentucky on Saturday afternoon, a team the Commodores have dominated ATS in recent years.
Vanderbilt has covered in five consecutive games (2-3 SU) against the Wildcats, three of which came last season. After losing two tight regular-season meetings to Kentucky by a combined six points, they rolled to a 64-48 blowout win in the SEC Tournament, sending the Wildcats to the NIT. This yearís Kentucky squad has three losses, but all to teams ranked at the time óMichigan State, Baylor and North Carolinaó and recently had its first big win of the season when it took down then-No. 6 Louisville two games ago. One of the top rebounding teams in the nation (44.1 RPG, 6th in Div. I), the Wildcats are 6-6 ATS overall and 0-1 ATS in true road games (1-3 ATS in non-home games). The Commodores are coming off a 68-63 loss to Alabama in which they covered a seven-point spread, moving them to 7-5 ATS on the season. They are 6-1 SU (3-3 ATS) at home, but 0-5 SU (3-2 ATS) as an underdog. Vanderbilt has yet to play a ranked team this year, but begin a tough stretch against the Kentucky and No. 21 Missouri in its next two games. And they will play the rest of the season without leading scorer Eric McClellan, who was suspended because of academic reasons.
Can Kentucky finally win and cover versus Vanderbilt on Friday? For the latest college basketball picks, check out The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts selections every week throughout the entire 2013-14 season. The StatFox Experts have been rolling in college basketball Best Bets this season with a 61% ATS (143-91-5) mark, including a stellar 66% ATS (111-57) record since Nov. 23. StatFox Zach is leading the way at 64% ATS (30-17-1) on Best Bets this season, including 71% ATS (24-10) since Nov. 22, while StatFox Scott is 62% ATS (28-17) for the season and 69% ATS (20-9) since Dec. 2. StatFox Brian is 62% ATS (29-18-1) for the season and 67% ATS (22-11) since Nov. 26, while StatFox Dave is 59% ATS (27-19-1) for the season and 71% ATS (10-4) since Dec. 18. StatFox Gary is 59% ATS (27-19-2) for the season and 68% ATS (19-9) since Dec. 3.
John Calipariís Kentucky squad is averaging 81.1 PPG on 47.9% FG, but makes just 30.0% threes and has more turnovers (12.8 per game) than assists (12.7 per game). On defense, the squad allows a pedestrian 66.1 PPG, but limits opponents to 38.3% FG (19th in nation) and 30.7% threes. The team is once again dominated by freshmen, most notably double-double machine PF Julius Randle (17.4 PPG, 10.9 RPG). He has nine double-doubles already this season and shoots 56% from the floor, but he turns the ball over 3.1 times per game. Defensively, he gets major help from sophomore C Willie Cauley-Stein (9.0 PPG, 7.9 RPG) down low, who is averaging a ridiculous 3.9 BPG (5th in nation). In three meetings with Vandy last season, Cauley-Stein averaged 11.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG and 2.7 BPG. This duo is the reason why Kentucky ranks third in the nation with 14.4 offensive rebounds per game. The rest of the teamís double-digit scorers are all freshmen. PG Andrew Harrison (10.9 PPG, 3.3 APG) takes care of most of the ball-handling responsibilities, though heís making only 38% of his field goals (32% threes). His twin, SG Aaron Harrison (14.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG) has been the better scorer and shooter (46% FG), though heís making only 28% of his three-pointers and is 0-for-6 from distance in the past two games where he's committed seven turnovers with just four assists. Freshman swingman James Young (14.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG) may have more upside than either of them, averaging 22.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG and 4.5 APG over the teamís past two games, in which he recorded double-doubles in both contests.
This Vanderbilt squad is not outstanding in any particular way, averaging 70.2 PPG (236th in Div. I) and 37.4 RPG (100th in nation). On defense, the club gives up 66.5 PPG, but limits these opponents to 40.9% FG and a paltry 27.9% threes (12th-best in nation). It will be much tougher to score without SG Eric McClellan, who led the team with 14.3 PPG, adding 4.4 RPG and 3.2 APG. However, McClellan hurt the team from long distance (6-of-33 threes, 18%), and the Commodores were able to shoot 46% from the floor (6-of-13 threes) in their first game without him on Tuesday. Senior PG Kyle Fuller (10.0 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.7 APG) will have to be more assertive on the offensive end in his absence, and he did just that in Tuesday's loss to the Crimson Tide with 15 points on a season-high 10 field goal attempts (5-of-10 FG). The same can be said for junior SG Dai-Jon Parker (5.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.3 APG), who takes only 5.2 shots per game but is actually hitting an outstanding 45.2% of his three-point tries. This backcourt duo combined for 22 points, seven rebounds, four assists and just one turnover in Vandy's win over Kentucky in last year's SEC Tournament. Senior PF Rod Odom (13.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG) is now the teamís leading scorer, playing a hefty 35.0 MPG. Despite his 6-foot-9 frame, heís actually the teamís best shooter, hitting 2.8 threes per game on a 46.3% clip. He's also coming off back-to-back, 20-point games and is also the only Commodores player averaging more than 5.0 RPG, which could pose problems against the beefy Kentucky frontcourt that can dominate the glass. Odom had a dismal 3-of-16 shooting performance against the Wildcats in Nashville last year, but contributed nine points, six boards and two blocks in the SEC Tournament win. Heíll need serious help from 6-foot-10 freshman C Damian Jones (10.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG), who is averaging 1.2 BPG. Jones is averaging 16.0 PPG and 3.5 BPG over the teamís past two contests and will be needed to body up against Randle and Cauley-Stein.