The SEC was supposed to be a race between Florida, Kentucky and Texas A&M, but things have changed quite a bit since early in the season. Any number of teams could win the regular season and Auburn is surprisingly includedin that bunch. That said, there’s still a long way to go and that goes for Florida and Kentucky.
For the first time in a few seasons, the Wildcats aren’t considered the hands-down best team in the conference. They’ve already won some road Games, but also just picked up their second loss at South Carolina on Tuesday, falling apart in the second half. While the team has talent, there’s not a high-end guy that can take over Games like in year’s past.
This should be an interesting matchup because Florida has also disappointed this season, although the Gators probably had higher expectations than UK. Things were going smoothly after they won their first Four SEC Games and then a trip to Ole Miss changed that. At the end of the season, the Rebels may be one of the worst teams in the SEC so that’s not a good loss. Of course, the same could be said for South Carolina even after beating Kentucky.
Florida’s inconsistent defense has been a main reason for its struggles, allowing one of the worst three-point rates in the country at nearly 37 percent. The good news in this Game is that Kentucky doesn’t have any knockdown shooters and that’s been one of the problems for the offense. On the other side of that, the Wildcats are best in the SEC against guarding the three-point and that’s where a lot of Florida’s scoring comes from.
The Gators have the ability to catch fire and beat anyone with Four guys shooting above 40 percent from deep, but that’s not something to bet on in a Game at Kentucky. One of the bigger disappointments in Conference play has been the fall off from KeVaughn Allen, who was averaging almost 15 points per Game after the first two months of the season. He went off for 28 points on Wednesday, but hadn’t surpassed seven points in the previous Four Games. So far, that hasn’t mattered a ton with Jalen Hudson, Egor Koulechov and Chris Chiozza playing at a consistent rate, but that’ll change as road play picks up. None of those guys shot particularly well in the loss to Ole Miss and there’s no reason to think they’ll have success against this Kentucky team.
While the Wildcats are young and lack a go-to player, they still provide length and size at every position, which doesn’t help a smaller Florida team. The Gators are looking to get center John Egbunu back soon, but he’s still a week or two away from returning.
The difference maker for UK in recent Games has been Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who has taken over the point guard position due to Quade Green’s injury. That said, when he turns over the ball, this team usually struggles so it’ll be important for him to be involved early. This is the type of Game that Kevin Knox, Hamidou Diallo and PJ Washington have to step up in. All three of those guys can do work on the offensive end, but they also fall into lapses without any good looks on net.
If the Gators can limit those good looks, there’s a decent chance for an upset on the road. But on the other end of that, Kentucky’s defense could easily thwart anything Florida does, especially at home. Either way, this one should be close due to the inconsistencies of both sides, but per usual, it’s easier to back the home team.
Our Pick – Kentucky -3.5