Kentucky vs. Tennessee Odds, Picks, and Predictions (1/14/23)

In an SEC matchup between two teams on very different trajectories so far in the season, the Kentucky Wildcats had to Tennessee to take on the Volunteers.  Kentucky started with a lot of national championship speculation, returning a lot of stars from last year and reigning National Player of the Year in Oscar Tshiebwe.  They opened the season as a top five team, but have stumbled on one of their toughest seasons in recent memories.  This team has yet to gel together and sit at a 10-6 record.  This game comes off the heels of what might be their most disappointing loss in the Calipari era.  Losing to a 7-8 South Carolina team in Lexington, many are wondering if Calipari’s time at Kentucky may be done as he continues to get great players but struggles to coach them to where they are expected to be.  They need this win against Tennessee like they need water in order to keep some of the tracks on the rails for this season as they currently sit 1-3 in the SEC.

Unfortunately for Kentucky, they don’t quite have the best matchup to get back in shape as they face one of the toughest teams in the country in Tennessee.  Many people expected them to be good but not as good as they currently are, ranking 5th in the country with a 14-2 record.  They are playing unbelievable on offense and defense.  Playing at home will certainly give them an edge but expect an eager Kentucky team to make a push to get to where they were expected to be with the amount of talent they have.  Let’s get into this game’s matchup picks and predictions: 

Kentucky vs. Tennessee Betting Odds

There are no betting odds out just yet but expect Tennessee to open as favorites in this one.  Kentucky comes into this game off a two-game losing streak against SEC competition and one was another top ten team in Alabama.  The suffering loss to South Carolina will not give oddsmakers confidence in the Wildcats.  Tennessee also has not put any speculation on their SEC chances yet as they have so far won with ease in many of their games.  ESPN Analytics gives Tennessee a 90.5% chance to win in this matchup at the moment.  Looking at Kenpom’s analytical rankings, Tennessee currently ranks second out of all teams in college basketball behind only Houston.  Kentucky is currently sitting at 44th which is much further down the line from where they started.  The Wildcats need a big game from Tshiebwe along with the other high-caliber recruits they brought in that are still trying to find their rhythm with this team.  

The over/under total is still not placed either but drawing from their points average we can guess.  Both are quite close when it comes to scoring averages but differ on defense.  Tennessee averages 75.5 PPG while only allowing 53.4 points.  The Wildcats average 76.3 PPG but allow 67.5.

Kentucky vs. Tennessee Picks & Predictions

My Pick: Tennessee ML

I think Kentucky will come out tough in this game and are desperate for a win, but Tennessee is simply too talented to be a bounce back win.  They’re defense will be able to hold this team offensively and think they have offensive weapons to go up against a Wildcat team that struggles heavily when it comes to defense.  The Volunteers have four players averaging double digits in scoring but none over 15 points so they will need to all have good offensive nights.  Santiago Vescovi leads the team with 12.9 points per game while also averaging 4.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists.  Oscar Tshiebwe is great offensively but if they are able to contain other Wildcat scorers like Antonio Reeves, Cason Wallace, and Jacob Toppin who all average double digits.  Expect Tennessee to make a big run in this year’s tournament and I do think Kentucky will turn their season around at some point, but not in this game.

As for the over/under line, I expect the line to be placed around 140 and wouldn’t be surprised if the under hit.  Tennessee is a very strong defensive team and think they can do a good job at slowing this Kentucky team.  

Key Matchup

Oscar Tshiebwe vs. Tennessee

The biggest matchup will be how Tennessee handles Oscar Tshiebwe.  The reigning National Player of the Year winner is still playing at an incredible level, despite struggles from the overall team.  He is averaging 16 PPG and 13.1 RPG which is better numbers than anyone in Tennessee.  The big man is the leader for this Kentucky team and knows that they need to be playing better.  He will try to lead by example with a huge performance so it’s vital for the Volunteer defense to contain him and they have a strong defense to have the ability to do so.

Jack is a Hoosier by birth and Hoosier by alum. Full of hot takes but sharper predictions. Residing now in the Chicago area. When he's not chowing down on deep dish pizza and Italian beef, he's watching and betting sports. Junkie for everything CBB, NBA, NFL, CFB, and MLB. Here to feed you a system to follow that might even be better than the one Tom Brady was gifted his whole career.

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