Top ranked Kentucky and 19th ranked Florida meet for the third time this season with the Gators hoping to avoid a three-game sweep. The Wildcats will be looking for a 24th straight victory and both teams will be vying for a spot in the SEC finals against Vanderbilt.
Tip-off is slated for 1:00 PM ET at the New Orleans Arena where sportsbooks had opened with John Calipari's Cats favored by -9.5 points. Early NCAA Basketball betting action has already lowered this number to 8.5 on most betting odds boards.
While Kentucky might be the team to beat in the SEC, I believe that Florida might be the team to add to your NCAA Basketball picks this afternoon. Lets look into this matchup and decide why Florida is the team to ride here.
Kentucky rolled to a second straight SEC tournament title with a
70-54 win over the Gators last March and so far Florida (23-9 SU, hasn’t put up
much of a fight against the powerful Cats in this season’s meetings.
No.1 and climbing
The Wildcats -- potentially marching toward the No. 1 overall seed
in the NCAA tournament -- won twice by an average of 17.5 points, including a
74-59 victory in Gainesville last Sunday to cap a perfect regular season in SEC
play. However Kentucky (31-1 SU, 12-18-1) was its own worst enemy
committing 18 turnovers but still hung on for the 60-51 win over LSU.
It was a true team effort for KU with seemingly every player
contributing something. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist helped early scoring 10
of his 19 points in the first-half. Terrence Jones added 15 points and 11
rebounds, including a solo 9-0 run that gave the Wildcats the lead for good.
Anthony Davis added 12 points, 14 rebounds and six blocked shots and Doron Lamb
scored 12. The Wildcats shot 43 percent (18 of 42), out-rebounded
LSU 42-36 and held the Tigers to just 29 percent.
Kentucky has now won 23 straight games but once again failed to
cover, this time as a -17 point favorite.
Gators turn the Tide
Bradley Beal scored 16
and Florida beat Alabama 66-63 in the in their quarterfinal
matchup. The win not only moved the Gators into the SEC ‘Final Four’ but also
snapped a three-game losing streak.
Erik Murphy had 15 points and Kenny Boynton scored 14 for the
Gators, who shot just 38.5 percent (20 of 52) from the field, including 33.3
percent (10 of 30) from 3-point range. Boynton hit a pair of go ahead free
throws with 9.8 seconds remaining as Florida went 16 of 19 from the charity
Davis averaged 19 points and nine boards in the two meetings against
the Gators while Jones has put up strong numbers in five previous meetings
against Billy Donavan’s team.
Florida is hoping that Patric Young can duplicate his effort in
the season finale against Kentucky, where he had 21 points and nine rebounds
against Davis and his low post partners. The Gators will need Kenny Boynton to
step up his game after the veteran guard had just seven points in the last
meeting against Kentucky after getting 18 the first time around.
This will be the third time in just over a month that UK plays
Florida. The Cats beat the Gators at home by 20 points and one the road by 15
points. Florida’s key to winning is the same as it was the first two games—hit
more 3-pointers. Against Kentucky, UF is 12 of 49 from beyond the arc (24 percent).
In their other 14 conference games Florida hit on 38 of their long distance
These two rivals usually meet in the championship game of the SEC
tournament. Their last three meetings in the tournament have come in the title
game, with Kentucky capturing the crown in 2004 and 2011 and Florida grabbing
the trophy in 2005.
Harvey’s Take: You just can’t trust Kentucky to get the job done in the ATS
department. That’s why I’ve got my money on Florida. The Wildcats win but the
Gators keep it close in a low-scoring game.