Kentucky head coach John Calipari, center, draws up a play late in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Auburn in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. Kentucky won 82-80. (AP Photo/James Crisp)
- Mississippi State (14-13, 8-10 SEC) battles Kentucky (9-15, 8-9 SEC) on Thursday, March 11th, at 3:00 pm ET, in the second round of the SEC tournament
- The Wildcats won a double-overtime thriller back in January in these teams’ lone meeting this year
- The odds for the game, as well as matchup analysis and pick, can be found in the article below
The second round of the SEC tournament takes place on Thursday, March 11th, with 8th-seeded Kentucky facing 9th-seeded Mississippi State at 3:00 pm ET at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.
Kentucky won the only prior meeting between these teams, which came in double-overtime fashion on Jan. 2. Now, the Wildcats are hoping to embark on a magical SEC tournament run to avoid missing out on March Madness for just the second time in the past 11 tournaments. They start their quest as 2.5-point favorites over the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State vs Kentucky Odds
|Mississippi State||+2.5 (-110)||+124||Over 131.5 (-110)|
|Kentucky||-2.5 (-110)||-146||Under 131.5 (-110)|
Odds as of March 10th at FanDuel.
How They’ve Fared Recently
Kentucky’s results this season have been far worse than its fans are accustomed to, but at least the final few weeks were mostly positive. The Wildcats won four of their final six games, including a 15-point road win over Tennessee (23rd in KenPom rankings) and a narrow home victory over Auburn (64th).
Put up a season-high 92 points in the regular season finale.
Highlights ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/IrIFjgwZ5F
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) March 6, 2021
The Wildcats, long the proponents of the one-and-done system of recruiting, have let their inexperience show in some ugly ways this season. They rank outside the top 200 in NCAA Division I in both two-point and three-point shooting percentage, and they’re 240th in turnover rate on offense.
Perhaps Kentucky will be playing with a bit of extra urgency in the SEC tournament. After all, they’re not used to playing for their lives like this with an NCAA tournament bid almost entirely out of reach. Then again, perhaps they just don’t have the magic this year.
Mississippi State probably doesn’t have the magic either, but hey, you’ve gotta try. The Bulldogs won three of their final five games, though two of those teams ranked outside KenPom’s top 100 (and one of the losses came against Auburn).
𝘼𝙗𝙙𝙪𝙡 𝘼𝙙𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤𝙤 💪
▪️ Program record 124 career starts
▪️ SEC’s active leader with 750 rebounds & 236 blocks
And he’s not done yet 😤#HailState🐶 | @AbdulhakimAdo pic.twitter.com/867H993Bca
— Mississippi State MBK (@HailStateMBK) March 9, 2021
Defense is definitely the Bulldogs’ strong suit — they rank 46th in adjusted defensive efficiency and 29th in effective field-goal percentage allowed. On offense, they rebound well (13th in offensive rebound rate), but … that’s about it. This one could be a grimy, defensive affair.
2021 NCAA Men’s Tournament Championship Odds Tracker
Mississippi State is 15-12 against the spread this season, while Kentucky is just 7-15-2 ATS.
Sinking threes and winning games.
We’re now 8-1 on the season when knocking down 8 or more treys in a game. #HailState🐶 pic.twitter.com/qVLqOeZKKS
— Mississippi State MBK (@HailStateMBK) March 4, 2021
The Bulldogs have covered in four of their past five games, and they’ve seen the under hit in five of their past six. The Wildcats, meanwhile, are 2-7-1 ATS in their past 10 and have seen the over hit in six of their past nine.
From purely an entertainment standpoint, fans and bettors alike should be excited for Act II of Kentucky vs. Mississippi State — especially if it’s anything like the first game.
In January, the Wildcats earned a 78-73 win in double OT to cover as 2.5-point favorites. KenPom ranked that game as ninth in D-I in “tension” this season (measured by how close the win probability is to 50% throughout the game), as neither team held a lead larger than nine points throughout.
Kentucky shot an uncharacteristically strong 52.4% from three, which helped offset their 18 turnovers and scant free throw opportunities (3-for-8 from the line).
Neither of these teams is likely going far, but we like Mississippi State’s value as an ATS underdog.
Pick: Mississippi State +2.5 (-110)
Jordan Horrobin is a sports journalist whose MLB, NHL, NFL and NCAA work has appeared in outlets such as The Athletic, MLB.com, the Detroit Free Press and more. He is currently based in Toronto, also working as a contributor for Forbes.com and a freelance editor for Sportsnet.