With Johnny David and Reid Travis as the team’s lone seniors, Rupp Arena will look to send them off in fashion.
With the potential return of Reid Travis looming on Saturday, the Wildcats should regain experience and size on the interior. Even if Travis decides to wait until next week’s Southeastern Conference to make his return, Florida is a rather small team and would allow Kentucky to match up well by using a smaller lineup.
After struggling mightily at Tennessee last Saturday, freshman wings Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro were able to bounce back and carry the scoring load at Ole Miss on Tuesday. With their confidence on the rise, Kentucky could put together a significant outing of basketball if star sophomore PJ Washington can make it through the first half without picking up two fouls.
Aside from Travis and his knee, Kentucky’s main concern should be the rollercoaster ride that has become Ashton Hagans. The freshman point guard took the country by storm in late December with a coming out party in Chicago against North Carolina. He then began SEC play with stellar defense and an above-average assist/turnover ratio.
However, his play over the last month has taken a dip and that’s describing the situation mildly. If Kentucky wishes to contend for a national title, Hagans’ on-ball defense and ability to take care of the basketball must become more consistent. Saturday’s test against Florida’s streaky shooting backcourt should prepare him for the conference’s tournament next week.
As far as KenPom is concerned, this will be an interesting battle between Kentucky’s erratic offense vs. a tough Florida defense. Kentucky now ranks 12th in offensive efficiency, while Florida ranks 13th in defensive efficiency.
The first time these two teams, Florida managed to turn the game into a defensive struggle as they build up a double-digit halftime lead. But the Cats used a strong finish while their own defense stifled Florida the rest of the way.
Speaking of, Kentucky ranks eighth in defensive efficiency, while Florida ranks 70th in offensive efficiency. That’s where the big mismatch in this game is, and it’s why Kentucky should pull off the season sweep.
Kentucky opened as a 12-point favorite. While the spread looks fair based on how the teams look on paper, the Wildcats have been struggling to cover the spread recently. They’ve failed to cover in three straight games and four of their last six. They’re also 2-2 against the spread over their last four games.
Perhaps more importantly, Kentucky is 1-4 vs. the spread since Reid Travis’ injury if you include the Missouri game where he was injured early in the middle of the second half.
- 16-14 vs. the spread this season
- 14-13 vs. the spread as favorite
- 14-10 vs. the spread following a win
- 11-10 vs. the spread with 2-3 days off
- 9-8 vs. the spread as home team
- 9-8 vs. the spread as home favorite
- 9-8 vs. the spread against SEC teams
- 12-18 vs. the spread this season
- 3-7 vs. the spread as underdog
- 6-6 vs. the spread following a loss
- 9-12 vs. the spread with 2-3 days off
- 6-4 vs. the spread as road team
- 3-4 vs. the spread as road underdog
- 6-11 vs. the spread against SEC teams
ESPN’s four-man crew are all picking Kentucky. Their score projections include 84-69 by Myron Medcalf, 70-58 by Jeff Borzello, 67-59 by John Gasaway, and 84-67 by Jordan Schultz.
ESPN BPI gives Kentucky an 87.3% chance of beating Florida.
KenPom gives the Wildcats an 81% chance to win and projects a 68-58 win.
All of our staff picks are in favor of the Cats on Senior Day.
Rupp Arena has proven a unique atmosphere this season. After a few years of a “let down” crowd, the Big Blue Nation seems to have returned to form. On Saturday, Rupp Arena should be as loud as ever.
Florida is coming off an unfortunate loss to LSU and will only go down swinging in Lexington. Kentucky will need to control the tempo early, which includes taking care of the basketball and executing high-percentage shots.
Head coach John Calipari and his Wildcats should end what has been an impressive regular season on the right note.
Final Score: Kentucky 76, Florida 66