When looking at only school names, not many would give Wofford a chance with an enrollment just south of 1,600. But as seen in the spread, Kentucky can’t overlook this Round of 32 Game, opening as a -5 point favorite at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
While Kentucky had no problems winning its first Game over Abilene Christian, Wofford needed a late 17-0 run to put Seton Hall away. The Terriers were ahead for the majority of the Game, but then put in a few daggers late to end any chance the Pirates had. The biggest storyline going into this Game will be PJ Washington, Kentucky’s leading scorer who missed the first Game with a foot injury and likely won’t be ready for this one. His absence didn’t matter in the first Game, but when offense will be needed against Wofford, that could be a problem.
This is a great offense-defense matchup on paper with Wofford ranked 10th in the country in offensive efficiency and Kentucky eighth on the defensive end, though the Wildcats are just behind in terms of offense. That said, Washington makes this group a lot more dynamic as he stretches the floor at the Four spot. Kentucky’s biggest worry will be stopping the three ball, which it ranks mediocre against, 192nd in the nation and Fourth-best in SEC play.
The Terriers are one of the best shooting teams in the nation at a ridiculous 41.7% from three. Fletcher Magee is the biggest threat at 20.6 points per Game, but his 41.9% is actually worse than teammates Storm Murphy, Nathan Hoover and Tray Hollowell. A lot of that has to do with taking more shots, but it still shows how deadly this group is. Just as important for Wofford will be the play of big man Cameron Jackson (14.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg), as he likely goes against Reid Travis. Jackson is a load on the block, but Travis is one of the best defensive big men in the SEC. There’s a chance Kentucky could put Nick Richards or EJ Montgomery on Jackson, but given Jackson’s prowess in the paint, that wouldn’t be a good strategy. Without Washington, neither team has an advantage in the front cOurt.
Kentucky has the athletic advantage on the perimeter, but that only matters if it can limit Wofford’s shooting. Ashton Hagans will have a considerable size advantage at point guard, while Keldon Johnson will likely be glued onto Magee all Game. Tyler Herro isn’t the best defender and that could be the weak spot for the Wildcats with Hoover and Hollowell able shooters. At some point, Hagans will have to take up a bigger offensive role, something he hasn’t really done since January. He attempted just two shots against Abilene even with a decent size advantage. The Wildcats will try and lean on Herro and Johnson once again after they combined for 39 points in the first Game. Still, Wofford is not Abilene so scoring won’t be as easy for those guys even if defense isn’t Wofford’s strong suit.
At only five points, it’s expected Kentucky will get most of the money, but the Terriers haven’t lost since December and due to shooting, have the team to upset UK without its leading scorer. If Washington wakes up and feels better on Saturday, that’ll change things, but without him, these teams are a lot more even than the general public would assume.
Our Pick – Kentucky -5