Sidelines with John Clay

Three of four ESPN analysts pick Tennessee to beat Kentucky

ESPN.com asked four of its college basketball analysts to pick the winner of Saturday’s Kentucky-Tennessee showdown in Knoxville. Three of the four picked the host Volunteers.

Jeff Borzello wrote, “. . . I think the veteran Volunteers show some toughness and hold serve on their home floor.”

[SEC men’s basketball progress reports]

John Gasaway wrote, “I’m taking the Vols, but, that said, this result will say very little about what full-strength Kentucky can do on neutral floors in March.”

Jordan Schultz wrote, “The first one may have gotten away at Rupp Arena, but the Vols don’t lose at Thompson-Boling Arena.”

Only Myron Medcalf put his faith in the Cats, writing, “Kentucky was dominant in the first game, and I expect the Wildcats to win the rematch, even without Reid Travis.”

Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander of CBS Sports discuss the Cats and Vols on their latest college basketball podcast. Said Parrish, “It is not hyperbole to suggest (UK-UT) could determine not only who is a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament but also who is an SEC champion because we’ve got a three-way tie between Kentucky, Tennessee and Will Wade’s LSU Tigers. And obviously the loser of this game is going to be in a little bit of a bad spot.”

Norlander and Parrish both picked Tennessee. Parrish said his pick was based solely on Tennessee being the home team.

Michael Beller of Sports Illustrated has Kentucky as the No. 1 seed in the South Region in his bracket. He has North Carolina as the No. 2 seed, Purdue as the No. 3 seed and Marquette at No. 4.

Joe Lunardi of ESPN has Kentucky as the No. 1 seed in the Midwest (Kansas City) in his March 1 Bracketology. Lunardi has North Carolina as the No. 2 seed in that region. He has Houston as the No. 3 seed with Marquette at No. 4.

Jerry Palm of CBS also has Kentucky No. 1, North Carolina No. 2 and Houston No. 3 in the Midwest in his latest bracket predictions. Palm has Kansas as the No. 4 seed. A Kentucky-Kansas Sweet 16 game in Kansas City would be interesting.

Palm has Tennessee as the No. 2 seed in the South, with Duke as the No. 1 seed. Lunardi has the Vols as the No. 2 seed in the East (Washington, D.C.) with Virginia as the top seed. Sports Illustrated also has Tennessee as No. 2 in the East behind Virginia.

Kentucky at Tennessee

When: Saturday

Where: Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville

Time: 2 p.m.

TV: CBS-27

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John Clay is a sports columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader. A native of Central Kentucky, he covered UK football from 1987 until being named sports columnist in 2000. He has covered 20 Final Fours and 37 consecutive Kentucky Derbys.
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