NO. 2 KENTUCKY (16-1, 2-0 SEC) AT TENNESSEE (8-7, 1-0 SEC)
RPI Ratings: Kentucky 9 (No. 1 SEC); Tennessee 214 (No. 12 SEC).
Line: Kentucky -10
Kentucky Players to Watch: F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, 6-7 Fr. (13.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 50.3% FG); F Anthony Davis, 6-10 Fr. (12.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 63.9% FG); G Doron Lamb, 6-4 So. (14.6 ppg, 2.1 apg, 46.4% 3s). Davis, who is coming off a 14-point, 6-rebound, 4-block, 3-steals, 2-assist performance in the Wildcats’ 68-53 win over Auburn on Wednesday, has 78 blocks this season, one behind Jamaal Magloire’s all-time Kentucky freshman record.
Tennessee Players to Watch: G Trae Golden, 6-1 So. (14.6 ppg, 5.4 apg, 3.1 rpg); G Jordan McRae, 6-5 So. (10.8 ppg, 40% FG, 36.8% 3s); G Cameron Tatum, 6-7 Sr. (9.5 ppg, 4 rpg, 2.7 apg). Tatum, who went scoreless in 28 minutes in Thursday’s loss to Mississippi State, is 51 points shy of becoming the 44th Volunteer to reach 1,000 points for his career. He has also made 133 3-pointers, which is 11th-best in school history.
Storylines: Kentucky has won eight straight, including SEC wins over South Carolina and Auburn, since its lone loss to Indiana on Dec. 10. All but one of the victories – 69-62 over Louisville – has been by at least 15 points. Tennessee is starting to show some growth under first-year coach Cuonzo Martin. After a sluggish pre-conference schedule, the Volunteers beat No. 19 Florida then pushed No. 20 Mississippi State on the road before falling 62-58 on Thursday.
What You Need to Know: There are few teams in the country that can compete with Kentucky athletically. The Volunteers are one of the few who can. Kentucky’s size and athleticism in the paint will give Tennessee’s defense trouble, but the Volunteers should be able to battle on the boards with the Wildcats. The Vols have been turnover-prone at times this season. If they don’t protect the basketball, Kentucky could run them out of the gym.
The Bottom Line: Tennessee has won five straight at home, including its 67-56 win over the Gators and the Volunteers always seem to get up for Kentucky. An upset isn’t out of the question, but it’s still unlikely in Tennessee's point of progression.
The Pick: Kentucky 73, Tennessee 67.