Kentucky looked like an afterthought on a national scale earlier this season, but having won nine of its last 10 Games with Four of those over UNC, Louisville, Auburn and Kansas, that’s no longer the case. However, the Wildcats can’t take their foot off the pedal if they want to compete for the SEC regular season title with upcoming road trips to Vanderbilt and Florida.
Vandy still doesn’t have a Conference win, but it’s already shown it can compete at home, almost taking down Tennessee last week. Even in the first meeting against Kentucky on the road, it was competitive most of the way mainly because of the pace in a 56-47 contest. Vandy will have to play like that again because Kentucky’s defense has been stout, allowing more than 63 points just once in the last five Games. In fact, while Vandy is at the bottom of the charts offensively, UK has had the most efficient defense in the conference.
The best way for the Commodores to have a chance for an upset is to make a few more threes. That’s been one of the main issues with Kentucky’s defense and while Vandy doesn’t exactly shoot well, you never know what can happen at Memorial Gym. The ‘Dores went 7-for-25 from distance in the first Game and will need to be better than that, though no one on the team shoots better than 36%. Otherwise, they don’t have the type of offense that’s going to Scoreconsistently against UK. The Wildcats are improving by the Game and have the tools to stop bad offenses like this one. Vandy’s leading scorers Saben Lee (13.4 ppg) and Simi Shittu (13.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg) don’t have one specific advantage at their respective positions. Three other guys average between 8.9 and 9.9 points per Game and that usually isn’t going to get it done, which is why they still don’t have a Conference win.
The hope for Vandy is that Shittu and company can contain PJ Washington and Reid Travis once again after those two combined for just eight points in the first Game. That also means that something more has to be done against the guards between Ashton Hagans and Keldon Johnson, who combined for 30 points and shot 12-for-14 from inside the arc. If Lee can’t stop the point of attack in Hagans, Vandy will automatically be put into a hole. And while Hagans has scored less the last few Games, his assist numbers have also jumped with 22 in the last three. That’s because Washington has become a force for the Wildcats, dropping 20 points in back-to-back Games, something they’ve been looking for all season.
If Vanderbilt wants to win or have a chance to cover, it’ll likely have to repeat the shooting it had against Tennessee when it went 10-for-21 from three and better than 50 percent from two pointers. If those threes don’t fall, it’s hard to see the Commodores having enough offense to win. The spread is a bit large for a Vandy home Game, but after the weekend performances, it makes sense. Kentucky played one of its most complete Games in the win over Kansas, while Vandy fell by 31 points to Oklahoma.
Our Pick – Kentucky by 12 to 14