The second-seeded Kentucky Wildcats (29-5) are massive favorites for their matchup with the Northern Kentucky Norse (24-10) on Friday in Indianapolis. The Wildcats look to be peaking at the perfect time, riding an 11-game winning streak into the Big Dance and capturing the SEC regular-season and tournament championships in the process.
Point spread: The Wildcats opened as 19-point favorites; the total is at 152.5, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark. (Line updates and matchup report)
Why Northern Kentucky can cover the spread
Northern Kentucky has never made the NCAA tournament before, so nerves could be an issue early on. But the Norse have proven what hot play down the stretch can do, as they have won 10 of their last 11 games, capped by a Horizon League tournament championship win.
They went 7-3-1 against the spread during that closing run, covering four in a row. Northern Kentucky is also 6-1 ATS in its last seven versus teams with winning records.
Why Kentucky can cover the spread
Kentucky looked like an underachiever in the first half of the season but found its stride late, likely because the team had to work on chemistry issues with highly touted freshmen again playing key roles. This is the annual challenge for head coach John Calipari, with several underclassmen continuing to leave school early and getting replaced by top recruits.
Regardless, the Wildcats, holding a 6.6 percent chance to win the NCAA tournament, according to the analysis at PredictionMachine.com, have seen freshmen Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox and Edrice Adebayo step up and play bigger than their age recently.
Smart betting pick
Kentucky fans will travel well to Indy, making this into more of a home game than any of the other teams there. The Wildcats own a 10-game winning streak against Horizon League opponents, and they are 8-2-1 ATS in their previous 11 March games as well.
Northern Kentucky is a nice story and all, but this could not be much of a worse matchup for the Norse. They were blown out 92-61 by West Virginia and failed to cover as 26-point road underdogs earlier this season, and Kentucky is better than the Mountaineers. Look for the Wildcats to roll to another big victory and cover the spread easily.
March Madness betting trends
The total has gone under in six of Kentucky's last seven games.
Kentucky is 8-2-1 ATS in its last 11 games in March.
Northern Kentucky is 6-1 ATS in its last seven games against teams with winning records.
All college basketball lines and betting trends courtesy of Bleacher Report’s official odds partner, OddsShark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-movement updates and the OddsShark YouTube page for picks and analysis, or download the free odds tracker app.