Oakland vs. Kentucky Prediction, Odds and Key Players for NCAA Tournament First Round (Can Underdog Hang Around?)

Nov 27, 2023; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Oakland Golden Grizzlies guard Rocket Watts (0) holds the ball
Nov 27, 2023; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Oakland Golden Grizzlies guard Rocket Watts (0) holds the ball / Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky's NCAA Tournament run from the South Region begins as the No. 3 seed in first-round action against Oakland.

The Golden Grizzlies won the Horizon Tournament to secure a bid to the NCAA Tournament, but now face one of the best offenses in the entire country in Kentucky. The Wildcats have a high ceiling, but will the team be able to take care of business as a big favorite on Thursday?

Here's our betting preview for Oakland vs. Kentucky:

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Oakland vs. Kentucky Odds, Spread and Total

Kentucky vs. Oakland Betting Trends

  • Oakland is 9-3 against the spread (ATS) this season
  • Oakland is 20-13-1 ATS this season
  • Kentucky is 18-14 ATS this season
  • Kentucky has gone OVER in 23 of 32 games

Oakland vs. Kentucky How to Watch

  • Date: Thursday, March 21st
  • Game Time: 7:10 PM EST
  • Venue: PPG Paints Arena
  • How to Watch (TV): CBS
  • Oakland Record: 23-11
  • Kentucky Record: 23-9

Oakland vs. Kentucky Key Players to Watch


Trey Townsend: A 6'6" big man, Townsend will look to outclass a vulnerable Kentucky frontcourt. He is elite at getting to the free-throw line where he shoots 80% from the floor and draws a ton of attention down low which can open up the perimeter for a team that is above average in three-point shooting.


Reed Sheppard: As dynamic of a freshman you will see, Sheppard is shooting north of 50% from three-point range and providing fantastic on-ball defense. The Kentucky offense has the ceiling to put up 100, and Sheppard is the straw that stirs the drink for an offense that just shot the nation's best 43% from beyond the arc.

Oakland vs. Kentucky Prediction and Pick

Oakland plays a handful of different defenses, including a zone, that can give the Wildcats some different looks, but it's also worth noting that the Golden Grizzlies are bottom 10 in the country in open three rates, per ShotQuality, a concerning sign against Kentucky, who shoots over 41% from beyond the arc, the best mark in the entire country.

Slowing down Kentucky is a fool's errand, so the question is, can Oakland keep up?

I believe the Golden Grizzlies can, a team that is top 100 in three-point rate and is top 100 in effective field goal percentage. The group doesn't turn it over very much and can play inside and out with Townsend able to score from in close and three rotation players that have taken more than 100 threes and shooting over 35% from beyond the arc.

Greg Kampe's group doesn't beat themselves with its ability to protect the rock and doesn't send teams to the free throw line while also averaging the 307th shortest average possession length. With Kentucky's inability to turn opponents over, outside the top 250 in turnover rate, I think Oakland's offense can put together a strong effort and keep this game close.

I can't trust Kentucky to cover a big number like this against an offense that is 28th in raw efficiency rating per TeamRankings. but if you can't stomach taking the dog, the over is a solid pivot as well.

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Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.

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