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Kentucky vs. Florida: Analysis, betting trends and more

This preseason top 10 match-up is not as marquee as expected, but still big for both teams.

Hagans, Quickley Drew Brown - Sea of Blue

It is always a big game when the Florida Gators come to Lexington. What was perceived in the preseason as an epic match-up between two potential top 10 teams is not quite what we all expected, but it is also not the lop-sided match-up that the team’s records may suggest.

Buckle up, the Kentucky Wildcats are in for a dog fight on Saturday.

Analysis

When Kerry Blackshear Jr. picked Florida last summer, the Gators immediately became a favorite to contend for the SEC championship. With Keyontae Johnson and Andrew Nembhard returning and the highly-touted Scottie Lewis coming to town, Florida now had a roster that was among the best in the country.

When the rubber met the road, however, the Gators did not meet early expectations. Ranked No. 7 by the AP coming into the year, they lost two of their first four games with losses coming to Florida State and UConn. We now know that Florida State is very good, and although UConn was certainly not a good loss, it’s better than several of Kentucky’s losses.

Of course, the Gators dropped out of the top 25. They followed this up losses to Butler (better than we thought) and Utah State before heading into conference play with a record of 8-4. Everyone had written Florida off at that point.

Don’t look now, but the Gators are tied for second in the SEC standings. With a conference record of 9-4, Florida is coming to Lexington to cut into Kentucky’s two game lead. They have seemingly come out of nowhere after their slow start. But make no mistake, the talent we all knew was on the roster coming into the season is still there.

The Gators are led in scoring by Johnson with 13.7 points per game, but Blackshear and Nembhard are right behind him with 13.2 and 11.9, respectively. Nembhard, in particular, is really playing at his best right now. He has averaged over 15 points per game in his last five outings. It will be fun to watch the Wildcats match up with Nembhard, Lewis, and Johnson in the back court. The Gators may have a size advantage in the back court, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

This will be a great match-up for Kentucky across the board. Both teams have strong guard play and good big men. Blackshear will likely be Nick Richards’ biggest test of the season. Richards won the battle with Reggie Perry from Mississippi State a few weeks ago, and Perry put up 27 in a win over the Gators in their match-up. So if Richards is able to get the edge on Blackshear, I think the Wildcats will get the win as I expect guard play to be a push.

Betting Trends

While this win would likely mean a lot more for Florida’s seeding and chance at an SEC title, Kentucky is given a 67.2% chance of victory by ESPN’s BPI. Prediction algorithms like that, though, are based on numbers. In rivalry games, you can often throw the numbers out and just see who comes to play that day.

Officially, Kentucky is ? point favorite over Florida on Saturday. Time will tell if it changes very much. It will obviously be a big upset in Vegas if Kentucky cannot pull off the win. But how have these teams fared against the spread as of late?

Kentucky

  • 13-13 vs. the spread this season
  • 6-9 vs. the spread as home team
  • 7-6 vs. the spread in the SEC
  • 8-10 vs. the spread with 2-3 days off
  • Total score has been over in 8 of 13 conference games
  • Total score has been over in 7 of 15 home games
  • Total score has been over in 7 of 15 home games in which Kentucky is the favorite

Florida

  • 11-15 vs. the spread this season
  • 3-5 vs. the spread as away team
  • 7-6 vs. the spread in the SEC
  • 7-10 vs. the spread with 2-3 days off
  • Total score has been over in 8 of 13 conference games
  • Total score has been over in 5 of 8 away games
  • Total score has been over in both away games in which Florida was the underdog

Prediction

Kentucky is the better team right now. But you cannot discount the talent on the Florida roster. They have very talented players at almost every position, and anyone of them could have a big game on any day. The Gators have a signature win over Auburn, but also got blown out by Missouri. It is difficult to predict which team we may see on Saturday.

The key match up in this one will be between Richards and Blackshear. I worry less about Blackshear having a big game on offense, but if he can slow down Richards Kentucky may be in trouble.

Of course big game Tyrese Maxey could show up, but it’s just as likely that Andrew Nembhard has a huge game. The difference will come in the paint, and if Richards can score and Kentucky can match the rebounding of Florida the Wildcats will come out on top.

Final Score: Kentucky 72, Florida 64