MISSOURI TIGERS (19-7)
at KENTUCKY WILDCATS (18-8)
Rupp Arena Ė Lexington, KY
Tip-off: Saturday, 9:00 p.m. ET
Line: Kentucky -2, Total: 146.5
Still in search of sneaking into the NCAA Tournament without star freshman Nerlens Noel done for the year, Kentucky will host the nationís top rebounding team, Missouri on Saturday night.
These two teams havenít played each other in 13 seasons. Kentucky enters this game with its first win without Noel, a four-point victory against Vanderbilt Wednesday that marked the Wildcatsí fourth consecutive ATS loss. Missouri, meanwhile, grabs 42.2 rebounds per game, tops in the nation. Kentucky will need to find a way to keep the Tigers off the glass with the absence of its top rebounder Noel, who also leads the nation in blocked shots.
Can Missouri escape Lexington with a crucial win? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. Through Thursday, StatFox Scott is 58% ATS (19-14) on college hoops Best Bets since Feb. 8, while StatFox Gary is 55% ATS (85-71-3) for Best Bets this season. StatFox Dave is 52% ATS (139-130-5) for the season, and StatFox Brian has been 50% ATS or better in nine of the past 12 days, posting a 5-3 ATS mark (63%) over the past three days.
Six double-digit scorers pace the well-balanced Missouri attack. None is more integral to the teamís successes and failures than PG Phil Pressey (11.8 PPG, 6.9 APG), who marshals the offense. He, however, struggles with turnovers, coughing it up 3.7 times per game and makes just 36.7% FG this year. PF Alex Oriakhi (10.3 PPG, 8.6 RPG) paces the teamís prolific rebounding, averaging 10.8 RPG in the teamís past four contests. Heís also a defensive specialist with 1.6 BPG. PF Laurence Bowers (14.2 PPG, 6.1 RPG) joins him in the post as a more dynamic forward who can also shoot the ball. He led the Tigers with a double-double against Florida, tallying 17 points and 10 boards. SG Jabari Brown (14.5 PPG) leads the offense in scoring as a dangerous threat from deep, hitting 2.6 threes per game. Like Pressey though, he needs to up his percentages, hitting just 39.2% FG. Guards Keion Bell (11.6 PPG) and Earnest Ross (10.5 PPG) round out the team on the wing. Bell snapped a streak of four consecutive 20-point games with a nine-point effort against the Gators.
With Noel out, the onus on replacing his minutes falls to fellow heralded freshman Willie Cauley-Stein (8.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG), who stepped up in the win against Vanderbilt with his best game of the season, notching 20 points, seven boards and three blocks. But he has been inconsistent. In the loss to Tennessee, he fouled out in just 23 minutes of play, finishing with four turnovers, two points and two boards. Heís joined in the frontcourt by sophomore PF Kyle Wiltjer (11.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG), who is dangerous from beyond the arc, hitting two threes per game. Freshman SG Archie Goodwin (13.7 PPG) paces the offense, but has also battled inconsistency. He snapped three consecutive single-digit scoring efforts with 16 points against Vanderbilt. PF Alex Poythress (11.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG) has also been kept in check lately, averaging 6.0 PPG in his past six games.