KENTUCKY WILDCATS (4-1)
at NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (6-1)
Tip-off: Thursday, 7:00 p.m. ET
Line: Notre Dame -1.5, Total: 134
Notre Dame looks to continue its dominance at home when it hosts No. 8 Kentucky on Thursday night in the SEC/Big East Challenge.
The Irish have been nearly unbeatable at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center, where they’re on a 40-1 SU run and 105-7 SU (94%) since the 2006-07 season. And this will be the first true road game for the new-look Wildcats, who continue to rely on a freshman class that’s much more raw than last year’s national championship group.
Can the young Wildcats get the job done on the road? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. The StatFox experts are a collective 52% ATS (75-70-3) in college basketball Best Bets for the season, led by StatFox Gary, who is 5-2 ATS in the past five days and 59% ATS (16-11) for the season. StatFox Dave is at 54% ATS (30-26) for the season after going 60% ATS (21-14) since Nov. 17. StatFox Brian has gone 7-5-1 ATS (58%) in the past seven days.
Notre Dame has succeeded at home of late mostly because it shoots the rock much better in its own building. The Irish have shot 49% FG and 40% 3-pt FG at home over the past two seasons, as opposed to 39% FG and 28% 3-pt FG in road/neutral court games. Their strength this year has been in the frontcourt, where PF Jack Cooley is averaging 14.3 PPG on 63% FG and 11.3 RPG, and C Garrick Sherman is averaging 11.0 PPG on 63% FG. Their backcourt of Jerian Grant (13.0 PPG, 4.7 APG) and Eric Atkins (10.3 PPG, 6.7 APG) has played very well of late, averaging a combined 28.3 PPG on 53% FG and 52% threes over their past four games.
Kentucky is going through some early-season growing pains as it breaks in an entirely new team. But the Wildcats are making strides. They played well in their only loss of the year, to now-No. 2 Duke, keeping pace with them in almost every statistical category in a 75-68 neutral court loss. While starting PG Ryan Harrow has been out for personal reasons (he could return Thursday though), SG Archie Goodwin (19.0 PPG on 53% FG) has initiated the offense and played very well of late. He’s averaged 25.0 PPG on 59% FG, 7.5 RPG and 6.5 APG over two games last week. PF Alex Poythress (18.4 PPG on 68% FG) has also emerged as a consistent scoring threat, topping 20 points in each of his past four games. C Nerlens Noel will have to anchor the team defensively against Cooley. He’s lived up to his reputation as an elite defender, averaging 3.6 BPG to go along with 12.4 PPG and 8.6 RPG.