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Tennessee

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Kentucky

College Basketball Pick

2/14/17

It's time for a little revenge for Kentucky after falling to this Tennessee team only a couple weeks ago 82-80. The Wildcats never really had a hold on that first game as the Volunteers led for most of the way. The first issue was UK going 6-of-24 from three and having 14 turnovers, and the other was stopping the Vols from getting easy baskets in the paint. Robert Hubbs, Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield combined for 53 points with all but three of those points coming from inside the arc and at the free-throw line.

Since that loss, Kentucky went on to lose a couple more and haven't really figured things out since. In their last couple home games, they needed overtime to beat Georgia and gave up 85 points to lowly LSU, although that game was never too close. UK's defense has really struggled, leaving room for opponents to stay tight in just about every game, no matter the quality.

That should be the case in this game, even though the Vols have taken a step back in recent games too. They fell at Mississippi State a week ago and couldn't top Georgia this past weekend in a 76-75 home loss. Tennessee has played inconsistently for most of the season, which explains why it sits with 11 losses heading into this game. To reach the NCAA tournament, the Vols will need to figure things out heading into the SEC tourney.

Kentucky didn't have a bad offensive game in that first meeting, it just wasn't that efficient, starting with Malik Monk, who was only 3-of-13 from three-point range. His numbers are often better at home, but Monk, Edrice Adebayo and De'Aaron Fox all combined for 63 points, so it's not like there's much more this team can do offensively. Even Isaiah Briscoe finished with 11 points, 14 boards and led the team with five assists. The biggest thing will be to play better defense, something this team has struggled to do all season.

Tennessee doesn't have that efficient of an offense, near the end of the conference in both three-point and two-point percentage. The only thing the Vols really do well is not turning the ball over. But will they have that same success inside the arc in this game on the road? The most interesting part to that number is that Tennessee has one of the smaller teams in the nation with 6-5 Grant Williams and 6-7 Lew Evans getting most of the time down low last game as 6-10 Kyle Alexander barely played.

If the Wildcats don't play better defensively, this should be another frustratingly close game for the Cats. They haven't been able to pull away in any of their recent games since that first Tennessee loss. Maybe Monk will have more success, at least efficiently, but Adebayo can't do any better than the 21 points he scored in the first game. The winning margin will all depend on what Kentucky's defense does. If it continues its struggles, then the Vols can keep the score close through the same players as last game: Hubbs and Williams.

Our Pick - Kentucky by 15

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