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CBB – Tennessee at Kentucky (9:00 PM ET – ESPN)
Sportsbook.com: Tennessee will look to tie its longest winning streak in men’s basketball in over 30 years when it travels to take on Kentucky Tuesday night. The Volunteers, whose sites are set on an SEC title, are a road favorite in Lexington for the first time in over 10 seasons. Tip-time is 9:00 PM ET on ESPN.
Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl called last season’s loss at Kentucky one of the worst of his tenure with the Volunteers – but a defeat at Rupp Arena this time around could be much more disappointing. The third-ranked Vols will be trying to establish the best start in team history on Tuesday when they visit the Wildcats.
Tennessee is off to just the second 16-1 start in school history, matching the 2000-01 team. The Volunteers have won 11 straight since falling 97-78 to then-No. 15 Texas on Nov. 24 for their longest winning streak since the start of the 1999-2000 season. They have not won 12 in a row since Dec. 11, 1976 – Jan. 30, 1977, and were rewarded with a highest-ever ranking in Monday’s top 25 poll.
The Volunteers are 3-0 in the SEC for the first time since 2000-01 and are trying for their first 4-0 league start since ’81-82. To do that, however, they will have to win at Rupp Arena – “a place where last year we suffered one of the worst defeats in the few years that I’ve been here,” said Pearl, in his third season as Tennessee’s coach.
The Wildcats (7-9, 1-2) beat the Vols 76-57 on Jan. 28, 2007 for their 10th win in 11 games in the series and seventh in eight games in Lexington. However, Tennessee was without Chris Lofton in that game and managed an 89-85 win in Knoxville on Feb. 13 behind 23 points from their star guard.
The Vols are coming off Saturday’s 74-69 win over Ohio State – the team that beat them in last year’s NCAA tournament regional semifinal. JaJuan Smith, who leads the team with 14.8 points per game, scored 15 and Lofton chipped in 13.
Tennessee, whose streak includes wins over Vanderbilt and Mississippi, ranks fifth in the nation with 85.6 points per game and first with 20.2 assists per contest. The Vols’ bench outscored Ohio State’s reserves 26-0.
The Wildcats, meanwhile, have dropped eight of 11 under first-year coach Gillispie, including an 81-70 overtime loss at Florida on Saturday. Still, Pearl said he isn’t taking Kentucky lightly.
“I don’t look at the coaching matchups as much as I do the school matchups. It’s Tennessee versus Kentucky regardless of who’s coaching,” Pearl said. “This is a much more confident Kentucky team than it was a few weeks ago. And the kids are playing to their strengths now.”
Ramel Bradley hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds to play to send the game into overtime and led Kentucky with 23 points – his sixth straight game with at least 20. Freshman Patrick Patterson, who leads the team with 16.6 points per game, added 15.
The top StatFox Super Situation for tonight’s contest indicates to fade the road chalk:
Play Against – Road teams as an favorite or pick (TENNESSEE) – after going under the total by 18 or more points total in their last three games, a top-level team (>=80%) playing a team with a losing record.
(36-11 since 1997.) (76.6%, +23.9 units. Rating = 3*)
However, KENTUCKY is 2-11 ATS (-10.1 Units) vs. top caliber teams – outscoring their opponents by 12+ points/game over the last 2 seasons. The average score was KENTUCKY 66.2, OPPONENT 75.1 – (Rating = 2*)
NCAAB Free Picks: Concerning the total, the top piece on information on tonight’s FoxSheet leans to the under:
KENTUCKY is 25-8 UNDER (+16.2 Units) in a home game where the total is 140 to 149.5 since 1997. The average score was KENTUCKY 71.8, OPPONENT 63.9 – (Rating = 2*)
Look for a competitive rivalry-type game, as the last time Kentucky took the court at home, it upset Vanderbilt.
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