Missouri’s Xavier Pinson watches a 3-point shot go in the basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against TCU, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021, in Columbia, Mo. Missouri won the game 102-98. (AP Photo/L.G. Patterson)
- The Missouri Tigers (11-3, 4-3 SEC) host the Kentucky Wildcats (5-10, 4-4 SEC) Wednesday, Feb. 3
- Kentucky paused activities late last week due to COVID issues, while Missouri is coming off a rousing comeback win over TCU Saturday in overtime
- Read below for odds, analysis, and our best bet for this matchup
The Missouri Tigers (11-3, 4-3 SEC), still riding high following a comeback win over TCU in overtime, host the Kentucky Wildcats (5-10, 4-4 SEC) Wednesday, Feb. 3 in Columbia. Tip is set for 7pm ET inside Mizzou Arena.
The game was pushed back a day after a combination of positive testing, contact tracing and subsequent quarantining forced the Wildcats into canceling their anticipated Big 12/SEC Challenge with Texas Saturday. UK has lost four of its last five, including its last outing — a 70-59 defeat in Tuscaloosa last Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Missouri stormed back from 12 points down with under five minutes remaining in regulation Saturday to eventually knock off the Horned Frogs, 102-98. The Tigers got a career-high 36 point-effort from Xavier Pinson to go along with a career-high 33-point outing from Jeremiah Tilmon in the home win.
Kentucky vs Missouri Odds
|Kentucky||+4.5 (-110)||N/A||Ov 137 (-110)|
|Missouri||-4.5 (-110)||N/A||Un 137 (-110)|
Odds taken Feb. 2 at FanDuel
UK was leading ‘Bama 54-52 with under four minutes remaining, but ultimately lost by 11. The defeat marked the first time the Crimson Tide has swept the ‘Cats since 1988-89 season. The Wildcats also fell to 0-10 on the year when scoring 65 points or less.
Meanwhile, it’s a different story in Columbia. The Tigers eclipsed the century mark for just the second time in head coach Cuonzo Martin’s four seasons Saturday. They did it by shooting a season-best 48% (11-for-23) from 3-point range.
Now, Mizzou enters its tilt against Kentucky as favorites for the first time since joining the SEC.
Playing With Fire
UK coach John Calipari admitted last week he’s relaxed some COVID protocols in efforts to build team unity for his young group. He’s rented out a theater so the ‘Cats could have a movie night together, hosted players at his home and taken the team out to restaurants. Unfortunately, that fine line between team bonding — and actually being able to play — has come back to bite Coach Cal’s strategy via numerous coronavirus pauses.
I tried to clarify with Calipari how many available tomorrow:
“At this point, I don’t know. But I think it’ll be most of the guys. I don’t think it’ll be like five guys or six guys. As we speak right now, there’s nothing COVID-related.”
— Kyle Tucker (@KyleTucker_ATH) February 2, 2021
Believe it or not though, KenPom still has 5-10 UK rated as a top-50 team (at No. 50). Defending the opponent is where the Wildcats have been able to hang, with a No. 15 mark in defensive adjusted efficiency. That puts them ahead of teams like Virginia and Illinois. But with a still unsettled rotation of players, Kentucky, as noted above, has yet to win ugly during the 2020-21 campaign.
With Mizzou’s newfound ability to get hot beyond the arc, I’m not sure if that starts Wednesday.
Eye(s) Of The Tiger
Missouri came into its game against TCU as one of the nation’s worst 3-point shooting teams. But Martin’s team was especially hot when it counted most in the overtime victory. In the last part of regulation, Mizzou made five of its final eight 3-pointers. Pinson was especially lethal, going 8-of-13 from distance.
The junior guard leads the team in scoring at 15.1 points per game. Senior forward Tillmon is averaging an impressive 17 points (on 71% shooting) in his last seven games. The duo are a big reason why Missouri has been ranked in the AP top-20 for the last six weeks and rated as the fifth-best team (at No. 38) by KenPom.
Mizzou is one of the most veteran teams in the country. Its roster averages 2-and-a-half years of experience — compared to just under one year of experience, on average, for UK. That savvy will be on display against the ‘Cats.
Not only are the Tigers the hotter team (they’ve won four of their last five compared to Kentucky losing four of five), but they’re simply better than Kentucky at this point in time. And that’s rarely been the case in this series.
🗣 “That’s why you never give up.”
Fight #ToTheFinishLine 🏁🐅 pic.twitter.com/ooLvqlkppz
— Mizzou Hoops (@MizzouHoops) February 2, 2021
In fact, Missouri is 1-13 all-time against UK — with the program’s lone win (a 69-60 victory in Columbia) coming exactly three years prior to Wednesday’s date. Rest assured, the Tigers are certainly the more motivated team in this spot in what has become a lost season for Coach Cal’s ‘Cats.
Based on UK’s inconsistency, Missouri’s newfound shooting acumen and flat-out desire, I’m rolling with the home team in this spot.
The pick: Missouri -4.5 (-110)
Blair Johnson is a veteran journalist and seasoned sports content creator. He has been writing and producing content as long as he can remember, with such familiar names as CNN, NFL Media and Yahoo. Blair currently lives and works in the greater Los Angeles area.