NCAA Odds: Kentucky, Tennessee close SEC slate

By: Brad Young | Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Volunteers have dropped three of their last four conference home games.

College basketball’s regular season comes to a close Sunday before the conference and tournament madness begins.  The Southeastern Conference wraps up its regular campaign during an early tipoff when 23rd-ranked Kentucky (21-8 straight up, 10-13-1 against the spread) visits Tennessee (18-12 SU, 13-16 ATS).  The Wildcats enter this matchup having lost their last four road games SU and ATS.

Kentucky enters the final weekend tied with Vanderbilt and Georgia for second place in the SEC East, three games behind Florida.  The Wildcats are currently a third seed in the SEC Tournament, and are projected to be around a five seed for the Big Dance.  Tennessee is slated as a sixth seed for the conference tournament, and is expected to be about a ninth seed for the NCAA Tournament.

Kentucky improved to 4-1 SU its last five games after holding off Vanderbilt on Tuesday as eight-point home ‘chalk,’ 68-66.  The combined 134 points went ‘under’ the 146 ½-point closing total, ending a string of five straight ‘over’ outings.  The Wildcats are now just 1-4-1 ATS their last six outings overall.

Coach John Calipari’s team jumped out to an 11-point halftime advantage, 40-29, but managed just 28 points in the second half.  Kentucky trailed the Commodores in rebounding (33-32) and assist (13-6), but the team did force more turnovers (12-9).  The Wildcats shot 42 percent (25-of-59) from the field, and 40 percent (4-of-10) from behind the arc.

Guard Brandon Knight paced the offense with 17 points and six rebounds, while forward Terrence Jones added 15 and nine.  Guard Darius Miller was the only other player to reach double digits in scoring with 12 on 5-of-9 shooting.

Tennessee remains squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble due to its inconsistent play.  The Vols have alternated SU wins and losses the past six games after upending South Carolina Thursday as a 4 ½-point road favorite, 73-69.  The combined 142 points toppled the 134-point closing total, helping the ‘over’ improve to 4-1 the previous five outings.  Tennessee is now just 1-4 ATS its last five games.

The Vols had to hold off a furious comeback after entering halftime with a 17-point advantage, 40-23.  Tennessee delivered more assists (15-5) in the victory, but the team was outrebounded (33-22).  The Vols prevailed by shooting a blistering 51 percent (22-of-43) from the field, while limiting the Gamecocks to 39 percent (26-of-66).

Tennessee freshman forward Tobias Harris scored a career-high 25 points while grabbing six rebounds, while guard Scotty Hopson added 24.  They were the only Vols players to reach double digits in scoring.

Kentucky beat Tennessee in the lone encounter this season Feb. 8 as an 8 ½-point home ‘chalk,’ 73-61.  The combined 134 points failed to eclipse the 137-point closing total.

Tennessee center Brian Williams (back injury) is expected to be ‘out’ versus the Wildcats, while forward Renaldo Woolridge (ankle) is ‘probable.’

Sunday’s matchup is slated to start at 9:00 a.m. PT from Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Arena.

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