Both Ole Miss and Mississippi State hope to end their regular seasons Saturday with SEC victories after losing litmus tests Tuesday night to the two highest power-rated teams in the conference.
▪ Ole Miss (+5.5) at least kept it close in an 80-76 home loss to No. 6 Kentucky. The Rebels were dominated inside the arc, allowing the Wildcats to out-shoot them 57% to 47% on two-point attempts. They were able to cover the spread because of an 8-4 edge in made treys and a 37-29 rebounding advantage.
Ole Miss has been underrated by betting markets all season. Tuesday’s point spread cover made its record 6-2 ATS (75%) the last eight games, 22-8 ATS (73%) overall.
Ole Miss could offer betting value through the SEC and NCAA tournaments as a disrespected dog. But, a relatively soft defense by tournament standards is likely to keep them from stringing together high profile upsets. Its season wraps Saturday at Missouri (SEC Network, 2:30 p.m.)
For its part, Kentucky continues to raise concerns that it peaked too early. The Wildcats are 2-5 ATS their last seven games…entering Tuesday off a blowout road loss to Tennessee and a stunningly close home nail biter over Arkansas.
▪ Mississippi State (+8) was less competitive in a 71-54 loss at No. 5 Tennessee. You can deduce the offense was overmatched. State was out-shot inside the arc 53% to 37%, while only managing 4 of 16 on three-point attempts. The Bulldogs also turned the ball over 17 times.
Note that the Over/Under Tuesday in Knoxville was 145 points. So, the game stayed Under by 20! Both teams entered showing recent Under tendencies. State has now played seven of its last eight games Under the market total, while Tennessee has now played three straight Unders.
Talented Mississippi State can still be an important postseason factor. It has a better “efficiency” pedigree than Ole Miss on both offense and defense (scoring adjusted for pace and schedule strength according to Ken Pomeroy of kenpom.com). But, the inability to make ANYTHING work offensively in Knoxville casts doubt on whether the Bulldogs can beat any superior seeds that matter in upcoming brackets.
Mississippi State hosts Texas A&M Saturday (ESPN2, 1 p.m.) to close out the regular season.
▪ Midweek “bracketology” discussions show Kentucky and Tennessee likely to earn either No. 1 or No. 2 seeds in the NCAA’s (partly influenced by how well Duke plays between now and Selection Sunday). Joe Lunardi of ESPN had Mississippi State as a No. 6 seed before the loss at Tennessee, Ole Miss as a No. 10 seed.
▪ Football fans (and bettors) can look forward to a rare marquee matchup Saturday in the Alliance of American Football. Only two of eight league teams currently have records above the .500 mark. They play each other when Orlando (4-0) visits Birmingham (3-1) in a game that’s been moved to a major cable network for a national telecast (TNT, 1 p.m.).
Orlando is led by MVP candidate Garrett Gilbert at quarterback, the only consistently dynamic passing threat in the AAF who’s been able to stay healthy. The Apollos are 3-1 against the spread despite early recognition that they were an elite.
Birmingham is led by a stout defense, which has held opponents to 0, 9, 12, and 12 points thus far. That’s 33 points allowed in a month! League creators were hoping offenses would score that each week. Birmingham’s offense has only managed 4.7, 3.4, 3.8, and 4.7 yards-per-play so far, though. The Iron are 2-2 ATS.
Which style will rule the day in this potential championship preview?
▪ Updating AAF handicapping stats we mentioned last week…the average result through 16 games is now a victory of six points by the home team. That means we’re trending toward more traditional home field values after some early blowouts (road teams were 3-1 straight up last week). For you Over/Under fans, the average full game scoreboard sum thus far is only 37.5 points, with a league median of 38.
▪ In NBA betting news, the New Orleans Pelicans continue to surprise the market while allegedly “mired” in the Anthony Davis soap opera. Already in March, the Pellies have earned shocking road wins at two of the toughest sites in the league. New Orleans (+13.5) upset Denver 120-112 (a 21.5-point cover!), followed by a 115-112 win at Utah getting +9.5 points (a 12.5-point cover).
New Orleans is back in action again Friday night at home against Eastern Conference power Toronto. Sunday’s road game at Atlanta will be nationally televised (NBA TV, 5 p.m.).