The final game of the season is here, and it should be a really good one, as the Kentucky Wildcats are set to take on the Florida Gators. The game is scheduled to start at 2:00 pm EST on Saturday in Rupp Arena.
This is Senior Day, so the big question is will we see Kentucky’s only starting senior on the floor? Reid Travis was expected to be back for this game, but there hasn’t been any definite word on it thus far. Hopefully, Reid can make it out there and perform in front of the Rupp crowd one last time.
This is a monumental game for Florida. They are currently on the bubble right now, and a win in Lexington would almost certainly get them over the edge.
For the Cats, this is a must-win game if they want to stay in contention for the 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The first time these two teams met, the Gators came out extremely hot on both sides of the ball. It was a close game throughout with the Cats managing to pull away at the end, winning the game by a score of 65-54.
With so much on the line for both teams, the staff at A Sea of Blue has come together to offer their predictions on the outcome:
The first time these two teams met the Cats were blindsided by Florida’s intensity to start. However, Kentucky was able to show great poise throughout and pulled away at the end for the win.
This is a big game for Florida as they’re trying to make the tournament and it’s a big one for UK who is trying to keep their 1 seed hopes alive. This will also likely be the last game at Rupp Arena for guys like PJ Washington and Keldon Johnson, so I’d expect those two to play big.
It could also possibly be the last game for Tyler Herro and Ashton Hagans, but that depends on how well those two play in the NCAA Tournament.
As for Reid Travis, it will be his last game at Rupp, so hopefully he’s able to suit up. Even if the Cats were to be without him again, I think Kentucky has enough fire power to finish this season off strong with a win at home.
Prediction: Kentucky 68, Florida 61
Whenever the Cats and Gators hook up, it’s usually a battle. I don’t think this time will be anything else. For the most part, the Gators have underachieved this season but they are capable of springing the upset if UK doesn’t play well.
In the Cats’ case, there’s a little more emotion with Saturday being Senior Day for Jonny David and Reid Travis. It’s difficult to imagine any path to success the Cats have had this season without the inside play of Travis. That said, I don’t think we will see him play Saturday as the Cats have at least the double bye in the SEC Tournament. My feelings are we will see him there.
With all that said, I look for another set of big games from Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson, and PJ Washington getting back to doing his thing against the Florida frontline.
Prediction: Kentucky 76, Florida 68
In their regular-season finale, the Wildcats will host Florida, a team they had to come back against on the road in Gainesville in early February. With the possibility of Reid Travis being out again, Kentucky may have to finish out the season on a high note while they’re still without one of their most important pieces.
Kentucky knocked Florida out on their home floor in the second half in their previous match-up, as they outscored the Gators 36-21 with Tyler Herro shining on the road again with a 19 point performance. EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards scored 0 points in the first game, which obviously can’t happen again.
Without Travis, teams have been able to lock in on PJ Washington, and it’s been effective as he’s only scored 11.7 points and 3.3 rebounds on 33.3% shooting from the field and going 0-4 from deep in Kentucky’s last three games. Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro have stepped up in big ways to help lead the Cats to win tough games against Arkansas and Ole Miss, but without them, Kentucky could easily be looking at a 1-3 stretch without Travis. Kentucky needs Reid’s return to be able to work this team back to where it was before his injury.
After a one-point loss against LSU in overtime, Florida will be coming in to finish their conference season strong. This team is still an important test as they had Kentucky on the ropes for most of the game in Gainesville.
The key to beating Florida is to contain their perimeter players. Allen, Hudson, Johnson, Locke, and Nembhard can all be explosive at any time and their only real threat in their front court is senior Kevarrius Hayes. If you can limit the play of their guards from the perimeter, you give yourself a much better chance rather than if you let even just one of them get going.
Reid Travis may just play, even in a limited role, but I’d expect the Wildcats to be without him again in their final action in the regular season. Even without him, I expect the Wildcats to finish strong with their perimeter defense shining and with PJ Washington getting back into the groove he was in. In what will be a lot of these Cats’ final game in Rupp Arena, I see Kentucky winning and shifting their focus towards their postseason aspirations.
Prediction: Kentucky 75, Florida 61
I can’t remember a year where UK-UF has had so little pregame hype as this year. Florida coming in with an awful 17-13 record is obviously the reason, but the Gators did play Kentucky tough down in Gainesville back on Feb 2nd. If you remember, the Cats were actually trailing at halftime and needed a big second half surge to pull away.
Jalen Hudson went off for 33 points on Wednesday night against LSU, so he should enter Saturday’s game with a boatload of confidence. Florida has talented players and enough firepower to beat Kentucky if they don’t come out ready to play.
If Reid Travis isn’t able to go, it will once again put pressure on the Richards/Montgomery duo to provide some meaningful minutes. But Florida’s front court is sub-par, so the Cats should be okay there even if Travis misses his fifth straight game.
I think the real key to this game is getting Ashton Hagans back on track. He has just not looked great as of late and his role is so critical to Kentucky’s success. The Gators also have a talented freshman point guard in Andrew Nembhard. The Cats are only the best versions of themselves when Hagans is playing to his ability.
Ultimately, I don’t see Kentucky dropping the last home game of the season to an inferior Florida team.
Prediction: Kentucky 80, Florida 68
The Gators have been playing better of late. They were thoroughly disappointing throughout the majority of the year, but the sudden reemergence of Jalen Hudson has Florida looking like a 10 seed you don’t want to play in March.
I’m not sure if Reid Travis will play more than a handful of minutes, if any at all, but I don’t think that hurts UK in this game. Florida plays very similar to Auburn in that they jack a ton of threes and play small ball with four guard lineups.
I think this is one of those games where Kentucky actually matches up better with Travis out. It allows UK to get Immanuel Quickley more playing time, as well as Jemarl Baker, and EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards won’t get pushed around inside.
The key to this game is going to be taking care of the ball. Florida is constantly harassing players on the defensive end and that has seemed to bother UK the last few games. The Gators are very, very good defensively, but they’re challenged on the offensive end.
Jalen Hudson’s string of five straight games in double figures will help as he almost single-handily propelled the Gators to victory against LSU Wednesday night, but it’s going to take a lot more than just him. And I just don’t see Florida putting together enough offense to challenge the Cats in Rupp.
If UK can protect the ball and knock down some threes, I don’t think this one will be particularly close. Kentucky has slipped on the defensive end a bit without Travis, but I think they shut the Gators down Saturday.
And it’ll be the last time we see Reid Travis, PJ Washington, and Keldon Johnson play in Lexington. And it might even be the last time for Tyler Herro and Ashton Hagans, too. So, I think the Cats revel in the moment.
Prediction: Kentucky 77, Florida 61
Florida has been a thorn in Kentucky’s side for as long as I can remember. But this is not one of those Florida teams. They have trouble scoring (only 68 points per game) and shoot poorly as a team from deep (33%).
Their leading scorer, KeVaughn Allen, scores just 12.5 points per game, and he was mostly held in check by Tyler Herro in the first meeting. Andrew Nembhard is dangerous, Jalen Hudson has been playing well, and we all know some random dude can get hot at Rupp on any given night. But unless something very unexpected happens, I think the Wildcats will roll in Rupp Arena on Senior Day.
If Reid Travis plays, I expect a double-double. PJ will eat. And Ashton Hagans will return to form in the season finale.
Prediction: Kentucky 78, Florida 62