Ohio vs. Kentucky: Betting Odds, Picks, and Predictions (11/19/21)

Ohio vs. Kentucky Betting Odds

Following a disastrous season, John Calipari is trying to get his Wildcats back in the Final Four conversation. Unfortunately, an opening night loss to Duke didn’t help Kentucky’s cause.

Meanwhile, Ohio is looking like a MAC powerhouse despite losing their top scorer from last season. Not only are the Bobcats 3-0, but they’re also 3-0 against the spread (ATS) with a dominant victory over Belmont as four-point underdogs.

Therefore, the Wildcats should not be sleeping on the Bobcats in this matchup. The spread has opened at Kentucky -12, and that might open some value on the other side.

Ohio Bobcats Odds

So what if Ohio lost pro-level talent, Jason Preston? All coach Jeff Boals did was return four other starters and 60% of minutes played from last season’s MAC Tournament champions. Through three games, the Bobcats are still looking like an offensive powerhouse.

A lot of that is because of Mark Sears. The second-year point guard backed up Preston last year but has been tasked with replacing his production. After dropping 27 on Belmont, 15 on Cleveland State, and 16 on Robert Morris, questions have been answered.

However, his playmaking is still somewhat questionable. Through three games, Sears has posted an 8:8 assist-to-turnover ratio, but hopefully, he cleans that up with experience.

Speaking of experience, this team has it in droves. Look no further than Ben Vander Plas. Vander Plas was one of the heroes in last season’s NCAA Tournament first-round upset over Virginia, and he’s back as a fifth-year senior.

Vander Plas averaged 13/6 last season while stretching the floor as a small-ball center and shooting 35% from 3. He scored 36 combined points in the Bobcats’ games against Belmont and Robert Morris, shooting 5-for-13 from deep in the effort.

If Sears continues to produce at the level he has, this Ohio team is a force. Kentucky needs to stay on its toes in this matchup.

Kentucky Wildcats Odds

For the past two decades, the Wildcats have been a typical Blue Blood. They rely on one-and-done NBA-bound freshmen with oodles of talent to overpower other basketball programs.

Given the situation surrounding COVID last season, that strategy didn’t work. The team didn’t have enough time to build chemistry, and it totally lacked continuity. Coach Cal tried nine different starting lineups, all of them ended up losing in the final minutes of games. In fact, Kentucky was outscored by 63 points in the final four minutes of regulation.

So, Cal decided to zag. He dived into the inflated transfer portal valuing experience, playmaking, and decision-making.

He got that in four impact transfers:

  • West Virginia’s Oscar Tshiebwe
  • Georgia’s Sahvir Wheeler
  • Davidson’s Kellan Grady
  • Iowa’s CJ Frederick

Add that to returning players Davion Mintz and Keion Brooks jr., and you have a team ready to head back to the Final Four.

The loss to Duke was tough, but there have been huge improvements in Kentucky’s game through three seasons. Specifically, shot-making.

Last season, the Wildcats couldn’t make a 3 to save their life. Through three games this season, Kentucky is hitting over 45% of its deep attempts and scoring 1.034 points per possession in spot-up situations.

It’s early and that level of 3-point shooting might be unsustainable, but this is looking like a markedly improved offensive unit nonetheless.

Oscar Tshiebwe has been dominant in the frontcourt so far. Through three games, he’s averaging 18 points and 18 rebounds per game while shooting over 60% from the field. He’s first in the nation in offensive rebounding rate, 12th in defensive rebounding rate, and currently ranks fifth in KenPom’s Player of the Year rankings.

Prediction and Pick

My pick: Ohio +12 (-110 at DraftKings)

I love Ohio in this spot.

The Bobcats are looking like a formidable opponent to any power-conference school. With Sears playing at such a high level, this is essentially the same team that took down Virginia. I’ll happily play Ohio if they’re catching 12.

Plus, it’s worth mentioning that since Jeff Boals took over at the helm, the Bobcats are 32-19 ATS and 15-10 ATS as an underdog. Good teams win, great teams cover.

Meanwhile, Kentucky struggled against Duke and couldn’t cover against Mount Saint Mary’s. I expect the Wildcats to be good, but it’s too early to blindly lay the points with Calipari and his new team.

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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