Kentucky vs Auburn: Betting Odds, Picks, and Predictions (1/22/22)

Kentucky vs Auburn Betting Odds

This isn’t just the game of the week, but this might be the game of the year.

The Wildcats are finally rolling. John Calipari’s squad is looking like a Final Four contender, thanks to a few standout stars.

Meanwhile, Auburn is likely the best team in the country. Gonzaga currently holds the top spot in the AP Poll, but the Tigers earned more No. 1 overall votes.

But does Bruce Pearl have the skills to match up with Kentucky’s HOF coach?

Auburn is favored by three, so we should learn a lot about both teams after 40 minutes.

Kentucky Wildcats Odds

Kentucky’s statistical profile is elite.

The Wildcats rank top-20 in both offensive and defensive effective field goal percentage, as well as offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. As shown by these CBB Analytics graphs, Kentucky is far and away the SEC’s most efficient team in those areas.

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Image credits: CBB Analytics

Coach Cal can thank West Virginia transfer Oscar Tshiebwe for the success. Pair his 16.1 points and 14.8 rebounds per game with his 130 ORtg, and Tshiebwe currently ranks first in KenPom’s Player of the Year rankings.

Oscar is scoring efficiently, but he has TyTy Washington to fall back on in that department. But perhaps more important, Tshiebwe is putting together arguably the best rebounding season we’ve ever seen.

He paces the nation in both offensive and rebounding rate. And look at it visualized:

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Image credit: CBB Analytics

It also helps when Tshiebwe is an above-average interior defender by almost every metric (i.e., spot-up PPP allowed, roll-man PPP allowed, overall half-court PPP allowed).

As long as Washington continues to play efficiently in the backcourt – he has a 122 ORtg so far – the Wildcats have one of the best inside-outside duos in the nation.

That’s a championship formula.

Before last Saturday, Kentucky hadn’t recorded enough quality wins. It had just one KenPom top-50 win in non-conference play, over North Carolina (who is currently in danger of missing the dance).

But putting up 107 points on the nation’s No. 2 team in defensive efficiency tells me all I need to know about Kentucky. The ‘Cats are winding up and rounding into form.

Auburn Tigers Odds

While Kentucky hasn’t proven itself against the top teams, Auburn has been tested repeatedly.

Auburn is 5-1 in Quad 1 opportunities and 5-0 in Quad 2. The Tigers have eight KenPom top-100 wins and five KenPom top-50 wins. Their only loss was in double-overtime against UConn on a neutral court when shorthanded.

Kentucky is one of the country’s most elite statistical teams. But Auburn is the nation’s most complete team.

The three things I love about Auburn are:

  1. Guard play: Wendell Green is savvy with a top-25 assist rate while avoiding turnovers. He can also score like crazy when needed.
  2. Rim protection: The Tigers are first nationally in block rate with 7-foot-1 Walker Kessler and 6-foot-11 Dylan Cardwell controlling the post on defense.
  3. The Superstar X-factor: Jabari Smith should be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and will lead this team on a deep March Madness run.

Smith is insane. He can do everything offensively, including shoot 43% from 3, and everything defensively. His statistical profile is that of a complete player, and his 15.8 points per game show he can be the first option on a net-cutting team.

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Image credit: CBB Analytics

Kentucky vs Auburn Prediction and Pick

My pick: Kentucky +2.5 or better

It’s going to be tough to fade Auburn, but the Tigers must lose eventually. They’re carrying a 14-game win streak on their back, and ShotQuality projects them for some slight negative regression.

Meanwhile, I do believe Kentucky is on the come up, and ShotQuality projects the ‘Cats to see slight positive regression.

Auburn has faced some stiff tests this season, but I believe Kentucky is going to be the toughest one. The Wildcats are the highest-rated KenPom team Auburn has faced yet.

Moreover, the Wildcats can go toe-to-toe with Auburn from a personnel standpoint. Tshiebwe is an absolute monster on the interior and should neutralize the Kessler/Smith connection. Washington is just as skilled as Green but lengthier. And I trust Kentucky’s wing play (Davion Mintz, Kellan Grady, Jacob Toppin) even more than I trust Auburn’s.

If I’m catching points with Calipari, I’m rolling with the ‘Cats in this huge SEC Saturday Spot.

Tanner joined Lineups to cover everything, but he has vast experience in, and unlimited passion for, Major League Baseball and NCAA Basketball. He’s a McGill University grad and former (Canadian) Division-I alpine ski racer who now spends his time drinking beer and betting home underdogs. Patrick Mahomes is a poor man’s Tom Brady.

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