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Kentucky vs. Florida A&M viewing info, what to watch for, and predictions

The Wildcats look for a confidence-building win ahead of Christmas break.

Chris Livingston Isamu Haynes-Sunayama - A Sea Of Blue

Following a disappointing loss to UCLA in the CBS Sports Classic, the frustration of the Big Blue Nation feels like it is at an all-time high during the John Calipari era. However, the Kentucky Wildcats will look to get back on track against one of the worst teams in college basketball, the Florida A&M Rattlers.

Whether you are looking at KenPom, Bart Torvik, or NET Rankings, the Rattlers are ranked as one of the bottom-10 teams in the country. Sitting at just 2-7, both of the team’s wins have come against non-D1 opponents.

Wednesday’s game will just be the second time the two teams have met and the first since meeting in the first round of the 2004 NCAA Tournament. The matchup will also be the second game of the Unity Series, a five-year partnership with the Southwestern Athletic Conference to play an annual game between Kentucky and one of the SWAC member institutions.

In what should be Kentucky’s easiest game of the season, let’s look at some things to watch for.

Experiment with lineups

Through ten games this season, a ‘big three’ have separated themselves for Kentucky: Oscar Tshiebwe, Cason Wallace, and Sahvir Wheeler.

In the month of December, Tshiebwe-Wallace-Wheeler have accounted for more than 56% of Kentucky’s points scored, with an average of 36.7 points per game. The rest of the team? While obviously making up the rest of the points, are shooting just 38%

With that said, Kentucky’s offense has been far from consistent and a large part of this is due to lineups. While a team’s best players will and should score the most points, Kentucky has depth and needs some players to step up and contribute consistently.

In a game like this, the Wildcats need to use it to find lineups that work. After UCLA, one move that could prove beneficial, especially with spacing, is to play Chris Livingston at power forward along with three guards.

On his call-in show on Monday, Cal suggested that he may do that. Here’s to hoping we see it in action Wednesday.

Get Fredrick, Reeves, and Toppin a confidence boost

At the beginning of the season, with injuries keeping Oscar Tshiebwe out and Sahvir Wheeler limited, Kentucky’s offense ran through CJ Fredrick, Antonio Reeves, and Jacob Toppin.

Through two games (albeit against lower competition), the trio did not disappoint as they combined for an average of nearly 50 points per game (48.5). As of late, that has been far from the case. In December, they are averaging just 17.7 points per game on a putrid 32.2 percent shooting from the field.

With Tshiebwe and Wheeler back to full strength, it was inevitable that their production would decrease, but their drop in efficiency is what is concerning. Without these three playing at a high level, this team will not reach its full potential.

Appearing to be shaken, Wednesday night’s game should give the opportunity to give each player plenty of run to gain some much-needed confidence as Kentucky nears closer to SEC play.

Give the fanbase some hope

As mentioned in the introduction of this article, fan morale may currently be at it’s worst in the Calipari Era.

Burn me at the stake for this, but this isn’t all on Cal. Yes, he is the head coach and deserves part of the blame and his offensive philosophy needs to change in a big way. However, I think this is the release of years of pent-up frustration from a fanbase that wants something desperately to cheer for.

  • 2018: Lost in the Elite Eight in OT to an Auburn team that UK had beaten twice. Two Auburn players went for 20+.
  • 2019: COVID stopped a Final-Four caliber team, won SEC by 3 games.
  • 2020: Worst season in UK history; Missed tournament, weird year in college basketball (Duke also missed, UNC and Kansas out first weekend)
  • 2021: Team plagued with injuries at their peak; Worst loss in postseason history; Shaedon Sharpe saga.

With that said, the Big Blue Nation wants to support this team and have a successful season, but they need something to look forward to. Florida A&M may not be a quality opponent, but a decisive blowout win could provide a stepping stone.

Kentucky Basketball vs. Florida A&M

Time/Date: 7:00 pm ET on Wednesday, December 21st, 2022.

Location: Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY

TV Channel: SEC Network

Announcers: Tom Hart, Dane Bradshaw

Online Stream: WatchESPN, ESPN+, SEC Network+ or ESPN app

Radio: Tom Leach and Jack Givens have the UK radio network call on the UK Sports Radio Network.

Replay: SEC Network (check local listings).

Rosters: UK | FAMU

Team Sheets: UK | FAMU

Stats To Know: UK | FAMU

Odds: Kentucky is a 37.5-point favorite via DraftKings Sportsbook. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives Kentucky an 99% chance of winning, while KenPom is at 99.9%, and Bart Torvik guarantees a Kentucky win at 100%.

Predictions: Bart Torvik picked the Wildcats to win 80-49, while KenPom projects an 82-47 win for the home team, while TeamRankings went with an 84-48 victory, Kentucky!