Free NCAA Men’s Basketball Picks: Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Kentucky Wildcats

Notre Dame Fighting Irish AT Kentucky Wildcats
December 8, 2010 at 9:30 PM EST
Opening Line:  Kentucky -6
Current Line:  Kentucky -5
Current Total:  Undefined

Notre Dame comes into the game ranked 23rd in the nation vs the 17th ranked Wildcats of Kentucky.  Notre Dame is undefeated at 8-0, while Kentucky is 5-2, having lost a close one to the Tarheels by 2 and a not so close one to Connecticut by 17.

Notre Dame is winning its game in decisive fashion, with a +19.8 point differential, and Kentucky isn’t bad off either, winning by an average of 12.6 points per game.  Notre Dame has struggled mightily on the road, however, and has won just 6 of their last 24 away from Notre Dame.  Also in Kentucky’s favor is the fact that they have won 23 of their last 25 at home in Rupp Arena.  Notre Dame is 3-1 ATS this year and Kentucky is 2-3 ATS.  This is only Notre Dame’s second road game of the young season.

Kentucky is led by outstanding 6’8″ freshman forward Terrence Jones who is averaging a team high 19 points per game to go along with a team high 9.8 boards per game.  Projected to be a lottery pick this year, Jones is the dominant big man inside that has replaced DeMarcus Cousins who left last year for the NBA draft.  He’s scored 24 or more in 3 of Kentucky’s 7 games, including a 29 point outburst against Oklahoma.  Their other fab freshman 6’3″ guard Brandon Knight is second on the team in scoring with 17 points per game to go along with a team high 3.4 assists per contest.  Kentucky is shooting a blistering 41.4% from three this year, with all six of their leading scorers shooting 34% or better.

Notre Dame makes its living on the glass, and are #6 in the nation in boards per game.  They have three players with an average of 7 or more boards per game, and four players who average double figure points per game, using a balanced attack to wear down their opponents.  Ben Hansbrough and Tim Abromaitis lead the Fighting Irish in minutes per game with 33 per contest.  Hansbrough, a 6’3″ senior guard, is shooting an insane 54.8% from behind the arc this year, having hit 23 of 42 attempts so far.  Brandon Knight will have the job of checking Hansbrough and will be wise to force penetration rather than giving him the outside shot.

Ultimately, this game will come down to how well the Fighting Irish can manage to cover Kentucky’s two freshman studs.  Both are capable of huge games and could get off against the Irish defense.  Look for Kentucky to dump it inside early and often to Jones who will attempt to get the Fighting Irish frontline in foul trouble.  If he can, it will cause serious pains for the Irish as their interior game is their strength.

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