College Basketball Pick
Kentucky supposedly rebounded after losing at Auburn a few weeks ago, but that wasn’t the case at Tennessee on Tuesday. After jumping to a 21-point lead, the Wildcats fell apart and looked lost at times toward the end of the Game against the Volunteers. Now surprisingly, they already have three Conference losses, the same as their opponent this Saturday, Florida.
The Gators maybe had the most impressive win over the weekend, dismantling West Virginia 88-71 and never really looked like relenting that lead. The Gators are still on the bubble, though, and will at least need to split the series with Kentucky to have a chance at the big Tourney. All three of Florida’s losses have come on the road, including their last loss at Vanderbilt. However, the same can be said about Kentucky, which is why the Wildcats are expected to bounce back with a home Game.
Kentucky is lacking depth and a presence in the paint, but that shouldn’t be an issue in this Game. The Gators are built in a similar way, not having much of a presence down low.
Kentucky runs through its guards, mainly Tyler Ulis who averages 16.2 points and 6.1 assists per Game. The disappointing thing about Ulis this year has been his three-point shot, which is down to 30.6% on the year after being well above that last season. Jamal Murray leads the Wildcats in scoring (17.5 ppg), but in close Games, he seems to force too many shots and that usually works against them. For Kentucky to make any kind of run in March Madness, they’ll need Alex Poythress to pick up his Game. So far, he has struggled to do so and is still only averaging 10 points per Game. Poythress isn’t a true big man, but due to no one else stepping up, he’s what UK will need to count on.
Florida will likely use a mixture of big men on Poythress, starting with John Egbunu, who averages 24 minutes and 1.6 blocks per Game. That means their best player, Dorian Finney-Smith, will be left to defend Derek Willis, who is Kentucky’s stretch-Four. Finney-Smith should have the advantage on both ends, which seems to be the case every Game as he’s had at least 20 points in Four of the last five, while also being a force on the glass. He’s been efficient from deep as well and knocked down five against the Mountaineers.
Florida’s backcOurt dealt with West Virginia very well and will now have to take out Ulis and Murray. The Gators have the players to do that with Kasey Hill, Chris Chiozza and KeVaughn Allen.
On paper, the Wildcats don’t have a major advantage at any spot and that may come back to hurt them on the road in a month from now, but they have been dominant in Lexington in SEC play and you can’t discredit that. The Gators are still fighting for a Tourney spot and will put up a fight, but getting a win at Kentucky shouldn’t be expected.
Predicted Score- Kentucky 76 Florida 74