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No. 8 Kentucky Clinches SEC with Payback Win Over Auburn; National Title Odds Keep Improving

Blair Johnson

by Blair Johnson in College Basketball

Updated Mar 30, 2021 · 10:22 AM PDT

Bill Self, Head Coach, Kansas
Kansas head coach Bill Self directs his team during the second half of a first-round game against Eastern Washington in the NCAA college basketball tournament at Farmers Coliseum in Indianapolis, Saturday, March 20, 2021. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
  • Kentucky clinched the SEC regular-season championship with a 73-66 win over Auburn Saturday
  • The Wildcats have won eight straight and saw their National Title odds shortened to +1200
  • Is Kentucky worth a wager at their new price?

No. 8 Kentucky is on a roll. John Calipari’s team avenged one of its only two conference losses Saturday with a 73-66 win over No. 15 Auburn. The Wildcats have now won eight straight games and 15 in a row at home. Meanwhile, Saturday’s victory over the Tigers snapped a two-game losing streak to Bruce Pearl’s program, including a defeat in last year’s Midwest Regional final that cost UK a trip to the Final Four.

2020 NCAA Tournament Odds

Team Odds
Kansas Jayhawks +550
Gonzaga Bulldogs +750
Baylor Bears +800
Dayton Flyers +1000
Kentucky Wildcats +1200
San Diego State Aztecs +1200
Louisville Cardinals +1300
Duke Blue Devils +1400
Florida State Seminoles +1600
Maryland Terrapins +1800
Michigan State Spartans +1800

Odds taken Feb 29th

Saturday’s big win caused online sportsbooks to shorten Kentucky to +1200 in the 2020 NCAA Tournament odds. UK is a proven commodity under Calipari — or are they?

Of course, Coach Cal led the Wildcats to four Final Fours in his first six seasons in Lexington. But the program spoiled by that early success hasn’t advanced that far since 2015 (when they entered the National Semifinal against Wisconsin undefeated and the heavy favorite to cut down the nets — only to be upset by the Badgers).

Can this year’s version not only get back to what had become familiar territory, but capture Kentucky’s ninth title? Let’s break down their chances and make a prediction.

Sweet Revenge

Immanuel Quickley finished with 18 points and a career-high 12 rebounds against the Tigers Saturday, while Tyrese Maxey went 7-of-8 from the field and had 17.

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The big difference in the game though came at the charity stripe. UK was 27-of-33 from the  free throw line, while Auburn went to the line 11 less times (22) and converted less than half of what Kentucky made (13). That aggressive strategy will serve the Wildcats well heading into March Madness.

Plus, avenging that Elite Eight loss to Auburn from nearly a year ago is rather large for the psyche of this year’s team.

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If UK makes a run this year — as their fan base expects on an annual basis — you can look at Saturday’s game as a big factor.


But the case for Quickley and Co. to win it all in 2020 didn’t start this weekend. This is a team that has experienced several highs and lows throughout the season. Kentucky opened the season with a 69-62 statement win over the preseason AP No. 1 Spartans. That was followed a week later with a loss at home to Evansville, a team that KenPom has rated No. 292. Five weeks after losing to the Purple Aces, UK suffered back-to-back defeats in Las Vegas to middle of the road Pac-12 outfit Utah and an Ohio State squad that has underperformed in Big Ten play.

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As Quickley noted after Saturday’s win, “I think a lot of people doubted us early. We lost a couple of tough games in (Las) Vegas and people questioned if we could get to this point and eventually get to a Final Four or a championship or something like that. We stayed faithful to the grind and trusted the process.”

That sentiment was echoed by Calipari. “I never stopped believing in this group,” Calipari said. “I said we would be fine. I didn’t know we would get to this point.”

Well, here they are. And they have the look of a potential champion.

Worth a Wager?

So, are the Wildcats worth a future wager? Certainly — especially at +1200.

This season’s version may not possess the “Super Team” looks of the 2011-12 or 2014-15 teams that featured Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns, but the 2019-20 version is a scrappy bunch that seems to be peaking at the right time.


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