Date: March 29, 2019
Game Time: Approximately 10 pm EST (30 minutes after the conclusion of Auburn vs. North Carolina).
Location: Sprint Center Arena in Kansas City, Missouri.
TV Channel: Tonight’s game can be viewed on TBS.
Announcers: Ian Eagle, Jim Spanarkel and Jamie Erdahl will be on the call.
Online Stream: You can stream the game online or on your mobile device using NCAA March Madness Live.
Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM and 98.1 FM in Lexington. You can also listen to the Westwood One call of the game.
Replay: NCAA March Madness and check local listings on CBS Sports Network.
Odds: Kentucky opened as a 2.5-point favorite. As of Friday at noon, the Wildcats are a 2.5/3-point favorite in every major sportsbook.
Predictions: UK has a 62.8-percent chance to win, according to ESPN’s matchup predictor. KenPom gives the Wildcats a 58-percent chance of winning and project a final score of 68-66. Go here for more expert picks and predictions.
While we wait for the game, here is an Avengers-themed hyp video by Casey Miller to fire you up for tonight!
And here’s one from the fine folks at Kentucky Wildcats TV:
There has been little doubt within Big Blue Nation throughout the season that the Wildcats would make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament.
Now that Kentucky is in the Sweet 16, this is where the rubber meets the road. In the chalkiest tournament of all-time, the 2 seed Wildcats will face off against 3 seed Houston on Friday for a spot in the Elite Eight.
No, this Houston team is not Phi Slama Jama. But make no mistake, they are very good, especially on the defensive end. The Cougars are the top team in the country in defensive field goal percentage, holding opponents to just 36.6% from the floor on the season. For a Kentucky team that has been prone to scoring droughts, that is a scary stat.
Houston is also No. 5 in the country in defensive efficiency and No. 6 in opponent points per game (61). They are not big, but they can defend. The starters for Houston stand at 6-1, 6-1, 6-3, 6-7, and 6-8. However, they are all quick and very aggressive.
While they are not as elite on the offensive end, the Cougars are still capable. They average 75.8 points per game, yet they only shoot 44.7% from the floor. And although they only shoot 35.5% from the three-point line, they have two players that have made over 100 threes each for the season.
Houston’s only losses on the season have come to the Cincinnati Bearcats, the Temple Owls, and the UCF Golden Knights. They boast victories over the Oregon Ducks, LSU Tigers, and the Oklahoma State Cowboys as far as power five wins are concerned. This is a very good Houston team, and Kentucky had better be ready.
Now that it looks like PJ Washington is likely to suit up on Friday, Kentucky’s game plan should be to feed PJ and Reid Travis in the paint. There is certainly no match for them down there, and getting Houston’s “bigs” in foul trouble could really change the game.
The Cougars defense is much more efficient if the offense is running through a perimeter player. And while I believe Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson hold Kentucky’s fate in their hands, Houston will have a much harder time defending Kentucky’s offense if it runs through Washington or Travis on the block. There have only been two games since early February with both PJ and Travis on the court, so the prospect of being at full strength is very exciting for Kentucky fans.
The Cats and Cougars are scheduled to tip off at 9:59 p.m. Friday night with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line. However, expect the game to begin closer to 10:30 p.m.
Keys to the Game
The Kentucky Wildcats are No. 19 in the country in defensive efficiency, although there are times that does not feel like that is the case. Against Houston, the Wildcats need to be on top of their game.
If Tyler Herro is having one of his off shooting days, or if Keldon Johnson decides to disappear on the offensive end, Kentucky is in for a long day. While I believe their best options on offense are in the paint, Herro and Johnson need to be able to put up points for the Wildcats to be in this game later.
Take Care of the Ball
A lot of Kentucky’s success on Friday will fall on Ashton Hagans. He absolutely cannot turn the ball over as much as he did the last six games of the regular season (3 per game) if the Wildcats hopes to advance. He only has three total through the first two games of the NCAA Tournament, and he will need to keep that up on Friday.
Hit the Glass
Yes, Houston typically holds teams to under 40% shooting on the season (27.8% from three). So how do you score points when you are shooting a low percentage? Take more shots. What’s the best way to take more shots? Get offensive rebounds.
There is no reason that Washington and Travis, as well as EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards, should not own the offensive glass. They are significantly bigger and stronger than anyone on the Cougars’ roster. Second chance opportunities for Kentucky could be the difference for Kentucky in this game, so they need to make that a priority from the get-go.
Players to Watch
Corey Davis Jr.
Houston’s strength is in depth of their roster. They have ten players that average over ten minutes per game. But if you are going to pick out their top performers, it starts with Davis. He leads the team in scoring with 17.1 points per game. He shoots over 38% from deep, and he is an excellent free throw shooter at 87.3%
Davis also defends very well and will likely be matched up with Tyler Herro. Herro has to find ways to get open for shots. This may also be a good game for him to work off of the dribble and try to draw some fouls on Davis.
Brooks is second on the team in points with 13.2 per game and leads the team in rebounds with 6.4 per game. He shoots nearly 39% from behind the three point line, and he has taken almost three hundred shots from there on the season. He is not afraid to shoot his shot.
Brooks is the biggest guard in the starting lineup, thus he will probably be guarding Keldon Johnson. At only 6-3, however, Johnson will have a significant height advantage and should post Brooks up as much as possible.
Galen Robinson, Jr.
Robinson only averages 7.9 points per game, but he leads the team in assists with 4.9 and absolutely gets after it on defense. He leads this defensive juggernaut of a team with 1.3 steals per game, and as the point guard he will be trying to disrupt the play of Ashton Hagans.
Robinson does not shot the ball particularly well, but he does rebound well from the guard position and Hagas will need to know where he is at all times. Like Johnson, Hagans will have a size advantages and needs to exploit that as much as possible.