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Kentucky Basketball: First weekend roundtable and predictions

Breaking down the Wildcats’ trip to Jacksonville and making predictions.

UK Athletics

The NCAA Tournament is finally here!

After the Kentucky Wildcats lost a hard-fought game to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament semifinal, they are to focused on making a deep NCAA Tournament run and bringing home championship No. 9. It’s going to be a tough task, as there are a plethora of talented teams in this tournament, especially in the Midwest Region.

The first weekend is upon u,s and with that comes Kentucky’s first game, which is Thursday, March 21st at 7:10 pm EST. The first two games will be played in Jacksonville, Florida. If the Cats manage to win the first game vs. 15 seed Abilene Christian, they will advance to the second round and play on Saturday against the winner of the (7) Wofford Terriers and (10) Seton Hall Pirates.

No other game matters except for the one that’s right in front of Kentucky, as it is now win or go home. The Cats have had a great season, but it’s time to put it all together and make a run for Minneapolis.

Our team here at A Sea of Blue have gotten together to offer our predictions for Kentucky’s first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

Tj Barnett

Thank goodness the tournament is finally here. I think Kentucky got the draw they deserved based on their season. I’m also okay with the fact that North Carolina is their No. 1 seed. Kentucky has already beaten North Carolina, and I believe the Cats match up really well with the Tar Heels.

That said, the Cats first game should be interesting, but Kentucky should manage to beat the Abilene Christian Wildcats by a large margin.

Why do I think it’ll be interesting?

Abilene Christian shoots over 39% from the three-point line and has five players shooting over 40%, while Kentucky has struggled guarding the three throughout this season. I expect it to be close to start, but the Cats pull away late in the first half.

Prediction: Kentucky 79, Abilene Christian 58

The next game comes against the winner of Wofford vs. Seton Hall. After watching Seton Hall take down Kentucky in MSG earlier this year, it’s clear this is a dangerous matchup in the tournament, especially when they’ve got a guy like Myles Powell who can light up a scoreboard vs. anyone.

I do think Seton Hall gets the victory over a talented Wofford team and gets to match up with the Cats on Saturday. The Pirates are a very experienced team, and Powell is an extremely talented scorer, as we all know. However, I still think the Cats pull out the win, but it’ll be tight until the closing minutes.

Prediction: Kentucky 74, Seton Hall 66

Jamie Boggs

This is the first time that I can remember little to no complaining about Kentucky’s draw in the NCAA Tournament. The path seems pretty clear to the Elite Eight, at least on the surface. And then you have to be confident playing against a team you have already beaten with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

Kentucky was really rolling in February, and Reid Travis’ injury created a bit of a hiccup in momentum. Will his return re-energize this dangerous team in the tournament? Or did they peak too soon to bring home title No. 9?

The opening weekend should be a lot of fun for Kentucky fans. Of course, there will be nerves for players and fans alike, but the Cats are in an excellent position for a deep run this year.

Unless Abilene Christian brings a “Sister Jean”-type inspiration along with them, I expect Kentucky to send them home in humbling fashion.

Yes, they shoot the three very well. But Kentucky’s length will give them fits in trying to get their shots up.

Prediction: Kentucky 89, ACU 59

The second-round matchup will be much more interesting. Wofford has gotten a lot of buzz as a dangerous team. But Seton Hall is rolling, and we all remember their overtime victory over Kentucky earlier this season. I personally believe that Myles Powell will lead Seton Hall to the opening round upset to set up a rematch with Seton Hall.

Any time you have a player of Powell’s caliber coming at you during March, you have to be a bit uneasy. But with the motivation to avenge December’s loss to the Pirates, I expect the Wildcats to exert their will and roll into the Sweet 16 in Kansas City.

Prediction: Kentucky 75, Seton Hall 69

Adam Haste

The most exciting time of the year is here, and we know the path that the Cats will have on their way to try and reach the Final Four.

The Cats’ first opponent, Abilene Christian, finished the season with a 27-6 record and is currently on a six-game winning streak. However, they played only one elite opponent this season in Texas Tech, and they were blown out 82-48 in that matchup.

I don’t see the Cats having any problems with their first opponent and think they roll on Thursday.

Prediction: Kentucky 78, Abilene Christian 54

On Saturday, I believe UK will get the rematch game with Seton Hall after they knock off Wofford in the first round. If you remember, Seton Hall beat us earlier in the year 84-83 in overtime.

However, that was before the Cats’ defense really started clicking, and I don’t think Seton Hall will be able to execute offensively like they did in that earlier meeting.

With revenge on the Cats’ mind, I think we see UK cruise into the Sweet 16.

Prediction: Kentucky 75, Seton Hall 61

Sam Gillenwater

Kentucky is officially a No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region for the 2019 NCAA Tournament. As far as their draw, I don’t think anyone really expected a simple route to the Final Four. This portion of the bracket is loaded, as Kentucky joins North Carolina, Houston, Kansas, Auburn, Wofford and Seton Hall.

The Wildcats have four regular-season wins against this group, but North Carolina is much improved, Kansas would have home-court advantage if they were to get to the Sweet Sixteen, and Auburn is fresh off an SEC Tournament Championship. Then there’s a Seton Hall team that beat Kentucky earlier in the season.

For the first game, I think Kentucky should be able to handle Abilene Christian. They shoot a high percentage from the field, and multiple players are shooting over 40% from three, but Kentucky’s defense and rebounding is more than enough to win their first game.

Prediction: Kentucky 76, Abilene Christian 52

For the second game, the battle between Fletcher Magee and Myles Powell will result in Wofford sneaking past the Pirates. I think Kentucky will be able to handle the Terriers due to their improved three-point defense as the season has progressed.

Prediction: Kentucky 79, Wofford 61

Aaron Gershon

The Cats’ trip to Jacksonville likely won’t be easy. This bracket feels very similar to the team’s 2017 path. Like 2017, UNC is the one seed whom Kentucky, the two seed, defeated in the regular season. Time will only tell if the Tar Heels will have a chance at revenge.

In order to do so, Kentucky has to get through a first weekend that may not be easy. Abilene Christian will be Kentucky’s first foe. They are similar to the NKU team the Cats played in 2017 as a 15 seed. The game may be close for the first 10 minutes, but the Cats have far too much talent to lose in the opener.

Prediction: Kentucky 78, Abilene Christian 50

Heading to the Round of 32, it feels too perfect for Kentucky not to have a rematch with Seton Hall. Thus, I see the Pirates taking down Wofford. Like the first battle, this game will be very close. It may be a slugfest at times as both teams play solid defense.

However, Kentucky’s improved a ton the past three and a half months and are a much different team now than when they lost to Seton Hall in December. It will be close, but the Cats will play in the Sweet 16.

Prediction: Kentucky 70, Seton Hall 66

Shane Shackleford

Although I would have liked to see the Cats as a 1 seed, I don’t think their early draw is too bad. Both games are certainly winnable, but both games could expose a fatal flaw in the Cats’ armor: Defending the three.

Abilene Christian shoots nearly 40% from deep, Wofford has a sniper in Fletcher Magee, and Seton Hall has, well, you remember.

But this team has come light years defensively. They aren’t that same team in NYC trying to stop the Pirates and Myles Powell from shooting the triple.

This team also rebounds well and will have a decided advantage on the glass. None of the three teams have the stable of horses that the Cats have.

I think the Cats win comfortably in their opener over Abilene Christian.

Prediction: Cats 80, other Cats 62

This will set up a rematch with Seton Hall, who will edge the Terriers in a high scoring affair 83-78.

If the Cats defend the three-point line well and control the lane on both lanes, I think the Cats will be moving on to Kansas City.

Defense and rebounding travel!

Prediction: Cats 74, Pirates 69

Nick Wheatley

I would have been happier if Kentucky was able to slide into either Gonzaga’s bracket or the Louisville regional, but I’m actually totally cool with this draw. I’ve had beef with the Selection Committee in the past, but I’m not mad about it this time around. UNC is playing as good as anyone in the country right now, but UK has already beaten the Tar Heels on a neutral floor.

Also, I was hoping to avoid the Virginia Tech Hokies and Florida State Seminoles. Kentucky did avoid both teams and got Kansas as the four seed instead. I like it. And I love the thought of a potential rematch with Seton Hall in Round Two. I have a feeling it’d be a lot worse than the Alabama rematch last week.

As for the first round game, Abilene Christian is an interesting matchup for Kentucky. The other Wildcats have a solid record at 27-6 and shoot the three extremely well. As good as UK has been all year defensively, they’ve struggled to guard the three.

ACU shoots 38.8% from deep, which is good for 16th in the country. However, they’ve attempted the second-least threes in the top 20 (605 attempts). So, while they do shoot the ball at a high percentage, they don’t attempt a lot.

A notable fact about the Wildcats is that they dismissed two starters from the team in late February. They were still able to win the remainder of their games, but that’s a significant loss for any team.

As for the competition they’ve played, it’s not good. The only relevant game they’ve played is at Texas Tech and they got blown out by 34. This is a team that could give you a scare in the first round if they start hitting threes like crazy, but I just don’t see that coming to fruition.

Prediction: Kentucky 86, Abilene Christian 61

The first round game between the Wofford Terriers and Seton Hall Pirates should be a good one. Myles Powell is one of the most dynamic scorers in all of college basketball and Big Blue Nation knows him all too well. However, I don’t foresee a rematch and a chance at revenge because I don’t think the Pirates can keep up with the Terriers.

Wofford is my bet to be Kentucky’s second round opponent and it could be a really bad matchup for the Cats.

You know how well I just said ACU shoots the ball above?

Yeah, well Wofford is better. A lot better.

The Terriers shoot 42% from three on the season with a whopping 851 attempts. That’s good for the second best percentage in the country and second most attempts for any team in the top 20.

That makes them an extremely scary matchup for a Kentucky team that ranks 222nd in the nation in three-point defense. Oh, and they hardly ever turn the ball over. This is a very dangerous team.

Wofford is led by one of the most prolific three-point shooters in NCAA history, Fletcher Magee (20.5 PPG, 4.6 3PG). Magee is three three-pointers away from breaking the all-time record for three-point makes in a career. He’s shooting close to 43% from deep on the season and 43.8% for his career. The 6-4 guard will be tough for the Cats to contain.

But if you can’t beat ACU and Wofford, then you aren’t a Final Four team. And Kentucky is a Final Four caliber team. The Terriers won’t go down easy, and could even make BBN’s hearts skip a few beats, but I don’t think they’ll be able to survive a full 40 minutes. UK just has too much athleticism and size for the Terriers to handle.

Prediction: Kentucky 79, Wofford 67