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Kentucky vs. Florida viewing info, odds, what to watch for, and predictions

The Cats open SEC play against the Florida Gators. Here’s what you need to know.

Adou Thiero. Reed Sheppard. Drew Brown - A Sea Of Blue

It’s 2024, and the Kentucky Wildcats will start the new year by opening SEC play against the Florida Gators in their first true road game of the season in Gainesville this Saturday.

The Wildcats enter conference play with a 10-2 record, while Florida enters with a 10-3 record. It’s not just the records that are similar between the two teams, as they play a similar pace and style.

Kentucky is 21st in possessions per game, averaging nearly 77 per contest, while Florida is just one spot behind in 22nd.

Additionally, both move the ball extremely well, ranking in the top 30 in the country, and both rank 50th (UK) and 57th (UF) in KenPom defensive efficiency. That said, there are some differences as Kentucky attempts three more 3s per game and Florida attempts to create more contact and averages more than seven more free throws per game.

Let’s take a look at the matchup.

Rebounding

Florida is the best rebounding team in the country, averaging more than 45 per game while outrebounding their opponents by an average of 11 per game. While Kentucky’s efforts have improved since adding 7-footers Aaron Bradshaw and Ugonna Onyenso back to the lineup, they have yet to reach the 40 mark in a single game.

That said, in their most recent game the Wildcats won by 26 against Illinois State, but they were also outrebounded and allowed 24 offensive rebounds, the most of the John Calipari era. In the performance, Bradshaw and Onyenso combined for just three rebounds, the same amount 6-foot-1 Rob Dillingham collected.

It is worth noting that Adou Thiero missed the game vs. Illinois State due to soreness but is expected to play this week. Thiero is second on the team in rebounding at 5.6 per contest, so having him back will be a big boost in that department.

While Florida’s rebounding efforts are led by big man Tyrese Samuel, each player is disciplined and is looking to grab the rebound. The Wildcats have been working on rebounding drills since the Illinois State game, as John Calipari has made it a big emphasis during Camp Cal.

Hopefully, a difference can be seen in the week since, highlighted by Bradshaw and Onyenso stepping up in a bigger way.

Hit Outside Shots

Kentucky’s defense has not been great this season, but neither have the Gators. Florida’s biggest vulnerability is the 3-point shot, which is fortunate given that is where the Wildcats get more than a third of their points from.

The Gators allow their opponents to shoot over 34% from deep. This Wildcat team is making its case for the best shooting team of the Calipari era, as they take the second-best 3-point shooting percentage in the country into conference play, 41.6%.

In both of Kentucky’s losses, they have shot less than 32% from 3. Against a team that gives up the three, in a difficult environment, the Wildcats must convert on their opportunities.

Create Turnovers

Florida is 11th in the country in points, but their offensive efficiency is hurt by their inability to take care of the call, turning the ball over more as the second-most rate in the SEC, more than 13.5 times per game.

In comparison, Kentucky has only turned the ball over more than 13 times once, 14 times in a 34-point win against Stonehill.

Florida guards Walter Clayton Jr and Riley Kugel account for nearly half of the team’s turnovers, so look for the Kentucky backcourt to be aggressive.

Opposing Players to Watch

G Walter Clayton Jr, 6-2, 195 lbs

  • 15.2 PPG (11th in SEC)
  • 3.8 RPG
  • 3.3 APG
  • 45.7% FG

F Tyrese Samuel, 6-10, 239 lbs

  • 14.3 PPG
  • 8.8 RPG (3rd in SEC)
  • 64.6% FG (leads SEC)

G Zyon Pullin, 6-4, 206 lbs

  • 14.1 PPG
  • 5.0 APG (leads SEC)
  • 3.5 RPG
  • 42.9% 3P (T-12th SEC)

Kentucky Wildcats Basketball vs. Florida Gators

Date: January 6th, 2024

Time: 12:30 pm ET

Location: Exactech Arena at Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL

TV Channel: ESPN

Announcers: Dan Shulman and Jay Bilas

Online Stream: WatchESPN and the ESPN app.

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

Replay: WatchESPN and the SEC Network (check local listings).

Rosters: UK | FLA

Stats to Know: UK | FLA

KenPom: UK | FLA

Odds: DraftKings has Kentucky favored by a point as of Friday afternoon. ESPN’s matchup predictor gives the Cats a 38.3% chance to win. Bart Torvik has it at 41%, while EvanMiya has the game as a tossup, 50.1%-49.9%. KenPom is at 52%. Kentucky is currently 7-3 against the spread, while Florida is 5-4-1.

Predictions: Bart Torvik and Haslametrics both have Kentucky losing, 88-86 and 89-88, respectively. EvanMiya couldn’t predict a winner with an 83.2-83.2 projection. KenPom is projecting an 86-85 victory, Kentucky!