The Kentucky Wildcats have fought their way into third place in the SEC, and with four games remaining, they’ll look to continue their positive momentum into the postseason. We’ll preview their game against the Florida Gators before going over which side I’ll be backing in this one.
The Florida Gators had been playing like a .500 team for most of the season, but after the loss of star big man Colin Castleton, the Gators are likely heading for a rough finish. In the first game since Castleton broke his hand, the Gators went into Arkansas and lost 84-65 while only shooting 37% from the field and 19% from three.
It has been a struggle for the Gators all season to find secondary scoring behind Castleton. That was only amplified in his absence, with only two Florida players finishing the game in double figures. The only other player, aside from Castleton, that is averaging in double figures for the season is Will Richard, and in the game against Arkansas, he only attempted five field goals for a total of 10 points.
Defense had been the Gators' strong suit all season, but since their loss to Alabama, in which they allowed 97 points, it’s been heading in the wrong direction. The Gators will have their work cut out for them tonight on that end of the floor, with Kentucky currently ranked 15th in the country in offensive efficiency rating, according to KenPom.
The last time these two teams met on February 4th, the Wildcats walked away with a 72-67 win, in which they shot 45% from the field and outrebounded the Gators by eight. Kentucky will enter tonight amid a two-game win streak, as they picked up a big win over Tennessee in their most recent game.
Freshman Cason Wallace and Chris Livingston led the way against the Volunteers as Wallace finished with 16 points, six assists, and six rebounds, while Livingston had a double-double. With the direction the Gators seem to be heading, the freshman could be in for another big night.
Kentucky is currently listed as -2.5 point road favorites, and I’ll be backing them for my best play in this one. The Wildcats are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games, and in the previous 17 meetings between these two teams, the favorite is 12-5 ATS. In the last meeting between these teams, the Wildcats covered as -4.5 point favorites, and that was with Castleton in the lineup.
One of the biggest areas that Kentucky holds a massive advantage in is rebounding, as the Wildcats already outrebounded the Gators in their prior matchup, and that was with their leading rebounder. Kentucky was able to pull in 11 offensive rebounds in the game, and the Gators, now leading rebounder, is only averaging 4.5 boards per game, while as a team, Florida ranks 165th in the country in defensive rebounding percentage.
Much like the Gators' last opponent, the Wildcats do not rely heavily on the three-ball to supply their offense; in fact, they rank 313th in three-point attempts per game. Kentucky scored 72 points in their last meeting with only five threes, so with Florida losing their interior defense, a big man like Oscar Tshiebwe could dominate on the offensive end.
Kentucky Wildcats (-2.5)