CBB Saturday betting preview: Kentucky to cover at home vs. Tennessee

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We were so close to a 6-0 record during the midweek slate, but a solid 4-1-1 result still gives us solid momentum heading into a packed Saturday of college hoops.

With over 130 games tipping off on the sport's busiest day, we analyze some big favorites, a couple under plays, and an overrated squad in mid-major land.

Tennessee @ Kentucky (-4.5, 143)
1:00 p.m. ET

Kentucky's looking for its first signature win this season after dropping a tight road contest to LSU earlier in the month. Point guard Sahvir Wheeler left that game four minutes in, and the Wildcats struggled to take care of the ball. The nation's third-leading passer will be key against Tennessee's defensive pressure.

While the Volunteers rank sixth in the country in turnover rate, per KenPom, their six worst performances in that category this season were all away from home. If the turnover battle isn't as prominent, expect the rebounding of Oscar Tshiebwe and the shooting of Kellan Grady to push Kentucky to its biggest win of the year against a Tennessee group that hasn't topped 70 points in almost a month.

Pick: Kentucky -6.5 or better

UTSA @ Charlotte (-14, 148)
1:00 p.m.

UTSA was already struggling mightily this season and now its best player left the program; its second and fourth leading scorers are also out due to injury. All told, only one active Roadrunner averages more than five points per game, which showed in its ugly 32-point blowout loss on Thursday.

On the other side, Charlotte has been great offensively this season, but Ron Sanchez's pack line defense hasn't gotten the job done like years past. However, with the offensive ineptitude of UTSA, the 49ers should be able to ride out its efficient offense to an easy home victory.

Pick: Charlotte -15 or better

Arkansas @ LSU (-7, 146)
2:00 p.m.

LSU has arguably been the SEC's biggest surprise while Arkansas has been the conference's biggest disappointment. Although the Razorbacks may seem back on track after a 44-point drubbing against Missouri, a trip down to Baton Rouge should see them back in the losing column.

The Tigers use elite athleticism and length to grab turnovers and force opponents into contested, deep jumpers. On the other side, a small Arkansas squad ranks 336th nationally in percentage of points scored from beyond the arc, and coughed up 32 turnovers in its two prior games to Missouri. Expect LSU and college basketball's No. 1 defense to improve upon its 10-1 record against the spread at home.

Pick: LSU -8.5 or better

Norfolk State @ Howard (-3.5, 149)
4:00 p.m.

Howard is sitting at No. 226 in KenPom's rankings despite only one top-250 win, and three bottom-100 losses. The Bison have a plethora of shooters and exciting guard Elijah Hawkins but give up the ball a ton and allow more second-chance opportunities than almost any other school in the country.

Norfolk State should take advantage with its superior size and strong perimeter defense. Norfolk State has won eight of the last nine meetings in this matchup, and also just played on Wednesday while Howard is coming off an almost month-long COVID pause. Bet the Spartans to cover, and potentially win this one outright.

Pick: Norfolk State +2.5 or better

UC Santa Barbara @ Cal State Fullerton (-1, 136.5)
9:00 p.m.

After being one of the best mid-major offenses a season ago, UC Santa Barbara's scoring output has fallen off a cliff. The Gauchos score less than 20% of their points from beyond the arc, and rely heavily on long possessions that end in one-on-one scoring from big man Amadou Sow.

Cal State Fullerton gets its offense from its speedy guards driving to the hoop and post player EJ Anosike down low. However, UC Santa Barbara is the Big West's tallest squad and shouldn't make it easy for the Titans in the paint. With both teams struggling from deep, possessing interior size, and playing a slow pace, the final score should fall under the total.

Pick: Under 135.5 or better

BYU @ San Francisco (-3, 142)
11:00 p.m.

Gonzaga forced BYU to play in a track meet, but the Cougars and their tired legs will get a much slower game against San Francisco, who is also coming off a fast-paced game on Thursday. Both teams rank in the top 20 in 3-point percentage defense, and also happen to shoot a lot from deep.

Each squad also makes it a point to prevent second-chance opportunities, and don't typically gamble on defense. Between the potential fatigue, strong 3-point defense, and one-and-done mentalities on the glass and in transition, there's no reason to expect this matchup to be high scoring.

Pick: Under 140 or better

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CBB Saturday betting preview: Kentucky to cover at home vs. Tennessee
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