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Up-and-Down Kentucky Still Has Long March Madness Odds

After a slow start, the Kentucky Wildcats are peaking right as conference play is set to begin.
  • Kentucky is 3-1 in its last four with wins over UNC and Louisville.
  • The Wildcats’ March Madness odds have barely moved, however.
  • Is there value betting on John Calipari’s squad?

It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.  After sleep walking through the first third of the college basketball season, the Kentucky Wildcats reeled off three straight wins over power-five teams (Utah, UNC, and Louisville) before dropping a nail-biter on the road to Alabama on the weekend (77-75).

Tyler Herro (32.9 3P%) had a good look at the buzzer for the win, but couldn’t knock it down. (See 10:59 mark in the video below.)

Kentucky’s odds to win the NCAA tournament barely moved on the heels of their win streak.  They averaged +1700 at the end of last week and are currently at that number on Bovada.

Odds to Win 2019 NCAA Basketball National Championship

Team Odds to Win NCAA National Championship at Bovada
Duke Blue Devils +180
Michigan Wolverines +900
Gonzaga Bulldogs +1000
Kansas Jayhawks +1100
Virginia Cavaliers +1100
Tennessee Volunteers +1200
Nevada Wolfpack +1600
Kentucky Wildcats +1700

Their three-game win streak saw them rise to #13 in the AP Top 25 poll. However, the loss to Bama dropped them all the way to #18.

Has Kentucky Turned Its Season Around?

The key to the win streak was that John Calipari finally found his point guard.

Ashton Hagans won’t blow you away with his boxscore, but the offense has run much smoother since he was inserted into the starting line-up (in place of Quade Green, who announced he’s transferring). He’s absolutely relentless on the defensive end.

Hagans racked up eight steals in a victory over 9th-ranked North Carolina, and was instrumental in Big Blue’s win over rival Louisville, holding guard Christen Cunningham scoreless while he was on the floor.

Shorter Rotation Is Working for the Wildcats

Another reason for Kentucky’s resurgence has been the tight rotation that Calipari has been deploying.  Ever since the departure of Green, Calipari has leaned heavily on Hagans, as well as fellow freshman Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro, and forwards Reid Travis and PJ Washington.

Giving more minutes to his more effective players had the Wildcats resembling the SEC contender everyone pegged them as before the season started.

Is Now the Time to Bet on the Wildcats?

The price is appealing and their recent surge is tempting to buy, but it’s hard to overlook their flaws.

They’re mediocre in most major offensive and defensive categories, with a few ugly exceptions.  They’re a below-average three-point shooting team, they turn the ball over too much, and they get punished on the glass.

Like most Calipari-led Kentucky teams, they lack experience, relying primarily on freshmen, while SEC powers like Tennessee are led by upperclassmen.

I don’t see them over taking the Volunteers in their own conference, which means they’ll likely get an unfavorable seed come tournament time.  Yes, this team is talented, but they just don’t have enough experience or depth to overcome that.

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