When the March Madness picks are set each season, it's never surprising to see the Gonzaga Bulldogs on the shortlist of potential NCAA Tournament champions.
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Does Auburn Have Any Prayer Of Winning At No. 1 Kentucky?
Anytime top-ranked Kentucky takes the court this season it's must-see TV because the Wildcats ARE the biggest story by far in college basketball in the 2014-15 season as they chase perfection and a seat at the table among the greatest teams in the sport's history. UK puts its 26-0 mark on the line on Saturday as huge TopBet favorites against unranked Auburn.
Auburn Rebuilding Under Pearl
Auburn (12-14, 4-9) has been moderately competitive in Coach Bruce Pearl's first season. The Tigers have solid wins over teams like Xavier, LSU and Georgia, with those latter two SEC wins coming on the road. They've also lost to Texas Tech, Coastal Carolina and Vanderbilt. Auburn comes off a 79-68 loss at home to Alabama on Tuesday. Antoine Mason had a game-high 24 points while JT Harrell had 21, but the rest of the starting lineup had just 14 points, all from Cinmeon Bowers. The rest of the team combined for nine points on 2-of-19 shooting. Point guards K.C. Ross-Miller and Malcolm Canada were 0-of-13 shooting combined and neither scored.
"There are a lot of great teams in this league. We're not scaring anybody," Pearl said. "When we didn't dictate tempo and we weren't sharp offensively, they were obviously confident."
Harrell is the SEC's leading scorer, averaging 17.9 points per game, but the player who could individually cause the biggest problem for Kentucky is the SEC's leading rebounder, Bowers. He averages more than 10 boards a game and ranks in the Top 25 nationally in both offensive and defensive rebounding rate. Offensive rebounding is one of the few areas where the Wildcats are statistically average, ranking No. 266 nationally. Kentucky is currently allowing 52.2 points per game (No. 2 nationally). The Cats are also winning by an average of 21.3 points per game, largest margin of victory in the country.
UK Rolls Along
Kentucky (26-0, 13-0) passed a pretty solid test on Tuesday at Tennessee, winning 66-48. Devin Booker had 18 points and seven rebounds as Kentucky dominated in the second half, outscoring UT 31-17. After only leading 48-44 with 9:09 left, the Wildcats went on an 18-4 run as the Vols went cold from the field (2-for-12 FG) and the FT line (0-for-4). Tennessee kept the game close by shooting 54.2% in the first half. However, the Volunteers shot 25.0% in the second half, including 1-of-14 outside the paint.
The Wildcats won despite shooting 5 of 22 from 3-point range and allowing the much-smaller Volunteers to match them 34-all in rebounds and outscore them 34-22 in the paint.
"Well, let me say this," Coach John Calipari said. "We didn't outrebound them, and they got 19 offensive rebounds and there was a clip with three minutes to go where they got five offensive rebounds in a row. So, we have some work to do."
UK is 26-0 for the first time in school history. Calipari has now started 26-0 with three different schools. The first two times his programs failed to win the national title. That was Memphis in 2007-08, which lost the national title game, and UMass in 1995-96, which lost in the Final Four. UK remains the -130 NCAA title favorite at TopBet.
Key betting trends: Tigers are 4-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings in Kentucky. Tigers are 5-2 ATS in the last 7 meetings. Underdog is 5-2 ATS in the last 7 meetings. Road team is 4-1 ATS in the last 5 meetings.
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