Fresh off a loss in the SEC championship game Kentucky, the top overall seed in this NCAA tournament, begins its march toward the Final Four Thursday evening when it takes state rival Western Kentucky.
WKU won the South Regional play-in game with a rally past Mississippi Valley State Tuesday. Now they get the top seed in the bracket.
Kentucky came within one win of going undefeated in SEC play this season, but lost the conference championship game Sunday to Vanderbilt.
The spread wasn't posted at press time but expect a double-digit line in favor of the Wildcats. It's significant because Kentucky is just 1-5 ATS in its past 6 games as double-digit favorite.
This matchup is a neutral-site affair being played at KFC Yum! Center.
The Wildcats sit at 32-2 (13-20 ATS) on the season. By comparison, the Hilltoppers are currently 16-18 (18-15 ATS). Looking to wager on the totals? Kentucky is 12-18-2 OU, and Western Kentucky is 17-15-1 OU.
Power Rankings / Prediction:
The Power Rankings at Odds Shark show No. 180-rated Western Kentucky taking on the No. 2-rated Wildcats in this contest. The scores prediction computer here indicates a possible 85-64 win for the Wildcats on Thursday.
How They Match Up:
Offensively, the game matches up Kentucky's No. 23 nationally ranked offense (76.7 points per game) against a Hilltoppers defense that sits as the No. 196 at 67.7 PPG. The Wildcats have been averaging 48.3% from the field, more than the Hilltoppers have managed so far this season (39.4% on average).
Defensively, Western Kentucky features the nation's No. 184-rated defense on the road, allowing 70.1 points per game. Kentucky, meanwhile, comes in at No. 38 nationally in scoring at home.
In their last action, Western Kentucky was a 59-58 winner at home against Miss Valley State. They failed to cover the 3.5-point spread as favorites. Miss Valley State got 20 points from Kevin Burwell but lost anyway, 59-58, to Western Kentucky on Tuesday at Dayton Arena.
Kentucky lost its last outing, a 71-64 result against Vanderbilt on March 11. They failed to cover in that game as an 8-point favorite. Darius Miller scored 16 points in a futile effort to lead the Wildcats to a win (they lost 71-64 to Vanderbilt at New Orleans Arena on Sunday).