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College Basketball Pick
Here's another rivalry taking place on Tuesday night and the line probably isn't as close as it would have been earlier in the season when Kentucky was ranked No. 3 in the nation. They've come a long way since that ranking and are currently on a season-best five-game winning streak which has them back in AP's Top 25.
The Wildcats will need to step up their game another level if they want to keep that streak going. Florida has been unkind to opponents in Gainesville and has had zero problems all season long when playing at home. In SEC play, the Gators already beat Ole Miss by 14 points, Missouri by 31 and Georgia by 33. All three of those teams have winning conference records. In addition to that, they beat Marquette (first in Big East) by 33 points and Wisconsin (No. 20) by 18. Those are all viable opponents and none of them caused a single problem.
Kentucky will face an uphill battle, but by no means is it impossible for them to win. They almost beat Louisville on the road earlier in the season and managed a 13-point win at Ole Miss on their current winning streak. In that Ole Miss game, Nerlens Noel had an incredible 12 blocks, yet only two points. While Noel is scoring in double digits, his presence is most felt defensively and on the boards. He'll get matched up with Patric Young who has the body to deal with Noel. Unfortunately for the Gators, they'll be without their other big man Will Yeguete who just had knee surgery. He's another big body averaging 6.3 rebounds per game that will surely hurt in this game.
The Wildcats obviously don't have quite the same players as last year, but they are still a balanced squad. Leading scorer Archie Goodwin has gotten into foul trouble in their last few games, but backup guard Julius Mays has come in and the team hasn't lost a beat with Mays averaging close to 15 points over those games. Kyle Wiltjer has the ability to fill it up from deep as seen in his 26 points at Ole Miss. Alex Poythress hasn't scored much lately, but he still has a big body that will cause problems for a squad missing one of their power forwards.
There's no doubt, Kentucky has some talent, but will that be enough against the Gators who have scored at least 75 points in all home conference games this year? While they will miss Yeguete, he was never really an offensive threat. Erik Murphy is the same type of player as Wiltjer, but more refined and a better shooter. Fellow seniors Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario make up one of the best backcourts in the nation along with junior point guard Scottie Wilbekin. All three of them have the ability to shoot, but can all drive to the hoop which means Goodwin could find himself in foul trouble yet again. Wilbekin leads Florida with 5.1 assists per game. Casey Prather will most likely be the one getting Yeguete's minutes although his 6'6" frame might be something to watch out for.
If the Wildcats can't keep up with the pace of the Gators, this could turn into another double-digit win. However, if Kentucky can slow things down and win down low, this could end up having a close result.
Predicted Score - Florida 71 Kentucky 56
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