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Kentucky Wildcats at Tennessee Volunteers Game Preview, Odds, Picks & Predictions

Injuries Hampering Two of SEC’s Top Contenders

Few SEC teams have consistently given national power Kentucky as much trouble as Tennessee, but the Wildcats have returned home from Knoxville with victories in its last two trips.

Both teams head into the game playing some of the best basketball of the season. Kentucky’s six-game winning streak is the longest active run in the SEC. Tennessee has won four in a row and seven out of eight games since its loss at Kentucky. The lone defeat during that time was a one-point affair to Texas.

Kentucky Wildcats at Tennessee Volunteers Game Preview, Odds, Picks & Predictions
MICHAEL HICKEY / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

Kentucky is just a game behind first-place Auburn and Tennessee is only two games back so this game has significant implications in the SEC title chase. The Volunteers are also one of three SEC teams still undefeated at home.

Both teams have losing records against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, but the 12 combined games against ranked teams (including one against each other) will serve them well in what should be an electric atmosphere in Knoxville.

Kentucky (+450) is second only to Auburn in the odds to win the SEC title while Tennessee is third at +1400. Kentucky (+175) is third behind only Gonzaga and Arizona in the odds to reach the Final Four according to the March Madness odds.

Kentucky at Tennessee Game Information

  • Game: Kentucky (21-4) at Tennessee (18-6)
  • Location: Thompson-Boling Arena, Knoxville, TN
  • Day/Time: Tuesday, 9 p.m. ET
  • Television: ESPN

Kentucky Could be Without Star Freshman

Freshman guard Tyty Washington left the Wildcats’ impressive win against Florida with a lower-leg injury and it is uncertain whether he will be available against Tennessee.

Washington is Kentucky’s second-leading scorer with an average of 12.8 points and is also second with 99 assists against only 40 turnovers. It is also uncertain if an ankle injury will keep forward Jacob Toppin on the bench.

Washington has had his ups and downs, as most freshmen do, but he has scored in double figures in each of the last three games and he had a career-high 28 points in the first matchup against Tennessee. Other than that game, Washington has been pretty quiet offensively in the games against ranked opponents, but his ability to create his own offense while setting up his teammates will be missed if he is unable to play.

Toppin played at least 20 minutes six times in the first 14 games, but recently he played only 34 minutes over his last four games and he has also missed five games. He did have 11 points and three rebounds in a win against nationally ranked Kansas, but he has averaged 8.4 points in five games against ranked opponents. Toppin hasn’t played since scoring 10 points in six minutes against South Carolina on Feb. 8.

Kentucky is just 2-5 against the college basketball spreads in its last seven games vs. SEC foes.

Tennessee Down a Big Man

Facing Kentucky’s national player of the year candidate, Oscar Tshiebwe, is challenging enough with a full roster, but Tennessee will need to contend with the nation’s leading rebounder without Olivier Nkamhoua. He is the Volunteers’ fourth-leading scorer at 8.6 points per game and is second on the team in rebounding.

The 6-foot-8 junior will undergo surgery on his left ankle and is expected to miss the rest of the season.

 

Nkamhoua started the season with 34 points and 22 rebounds in Tennessee’s first two games. He had a 15-point effort against Alabama when the Crimson Tide were ranked and added nine points and seven rebounds against LSU.

Nkamhoua has missed the last two games but the Volunteers were able to beat Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. His absence figures to be felt much more against Kentucky.

Tennessee had been relatively injury free before this big blow as the 10 players who average at least 10 minutes have missed a combined total of 10 games.

The Las Vegas odds total has gone over in four of Tennessee’s last six games.

Kentucky at Tennessee Head-to-Head

This has been a pretty even series with Kentucky and Tennessee splitting the last 16 games and neither team winning more than two consecutive games.

There was nothing even about the most recent meeting as Kentucky rolled to 107-79 victory at home as a five-point favorite. Five of the last six games have been decided by more than 10 points. The visiting team won five straight games before Kentucky’s blowout win on Jan. 15.

Something to consider for those who bet online: Five of the last six matchups between the teams went over the total while neither team has been favored by more than 8½ points since 2018.

Kentucky at Tennessee Prediction

It will be worth keeping an eye on the line as more information is known about the availability of Kentucky’s Washington and Toppin. Both seem to be trending in the wrong direction heading into this game.

Kentucky could do no wrong in the first meeting between the teams, making 68 percent of its field goal attempts and shooting 61 percent from 3-point range. It seems unlikely that the Wildcats can hit those numbers in the rematch.

Five of the last games between Kentucky and Tennessee have gone over and with a reasonable total of 140, that could happen again.

Tennessee has been amazing at home but it is hard to go against Kentucky as the underdog.

Pick: Over 140

Pick: Kentucky Wildcats +105

Pick: Kentucky Wildcats +1½

 

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