This weekend marks the next-to-last regular season weekend for most major college basketball conferences, but there’s only one game that features two teams ranked in the Associated Press’ Top 25 poll.
But, boy, is that game a big one.
Fourth-ranked Kentucky (24-4) travels down to Knoxville on Saturday afternoon to play No. 7 Tennessee (25-3) in a game that may go a long way in determining who possibly gets one of the four number-one seeds when the NCAA Tournament tips off in less than three weeks. Both teams are tied with Louisiana State atop the Southeastern Conference standings at 13-2, but Kentucky already holds a victory over the Volunteers.
The Wildcats, who enter Saturday’s game on a four-game winning streak, beat Tennessee 86-69 in Lexington two weeks ago. However, initial odds for Saturday show Tennessee a 2.5-point favorite, according to point spreads on VegasInsider.com.
- The teams are among the most popular picks to win the national title. Sportsbook.AG has Kentucky as its fourth choice at 8-1, while Tennessee is among three teams at the next tier with 12-1 odds. Fan Duel lists Kentucky at +1100, also its fourth choice, and Tennessee is listed at +1700, tied for seventh on the board.
Tip-off is scheduled for 2 pm ET, and the game will be broadcast nationally on CBS.
Kentucky Star Doubtful for Rematch
Tennessee may be favored because the Volunteers are playing at home. However, another reason for the spread may be due to Kentucky likely being without a key player.
Graduate transfer Reid Travis scored 11 points and pulled down eight rebounds in the win two weeks ago, and the former Stanford player was the Wildcats best defensive player that night. But he sprained his right knee in the following game at Missouri and has been out since.
Kentucky coach John Calipari told reporters on Friday that the team would evaluate Travis’ knee and determine if he could play. However, the UK coach said it would be unlikely they’d try to rush back a player considered to be key for a title run.
What kids try to do is convince you that they can do this,” Calipari said. “My whole thing (is) this is about the long season, not the short season. This will be a hard game whether he plays or not.”
Physical Matchup Expected Saturday
The Volunteers were top-ranked team in the country when they lost two weeks ago, and Kentucky players know the rematch will be a hard-fought battle.
“They’re always going to fight,” Wildcats forward P.J. Washington told reporters on Friday. “So, I just love games when it’s physical like that. We’re going into a competitive environment and just trying to get a win. That’s the best thing if we can beat them on the road.”
After the Volunteers beat Mississippi 73-71 on Wednesday, Grant Williams said he thinks the UK game will be a physical battle. He also said that while the Volunteers have title aspirations, they know they can’t look too far ahead.
“It’s one game at a time,” said Williams, who hit the game-winning shot with :03 left to beat Ole Miss. “You can’t look at it any other way. You just got to focus on today and move on.”