FLORIDA GATORS (24-5)
at KENTUCKY WILDCATS (20-10)
Tip-off: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET
Line: Florida -6, Total: 132
Slumping Kentucky is in need of a big win, and has a great opportunity to get one on Saturday afternoon when No. 11 Florida pays a visit.
The Gators are 14-3 SU (10-7 ATS) in conference play this season, but have lost two straight road games at Missouri and Tennessee. They have also been a terrible wager since the start of February, going 3-7 ATS in those 10 games. Kentucky has started March with two straight double-digit losses, falling 73-60 at Arkansas and 72-62 at Georgia. The Wildcats also lost big at Florida on Feb. 12, dropping a 69-52 decision and seeing their best player, C Nerlens Noel, go down with a torn ACL that night. Despite the recent struggles, Kentucky is 12-2 SU (8-5-1 ATS) in the past 14 home meetings with Florida, pounding them 78-58 last season.
Can Kentucky pull out the crucial victory on Saturday? For the answer, connect to College Basketball Best Bets for all the Expert picks throughout the entire 2012-13 season. StatFox Gary remains hot with a 61% ATS mark (11-7) since Feb. 27 to improve to 54.4% ATS (98-82-4) for college basketball Best Bets this season. StatFox Dave is 55% ATS (11-9) since Feb. 28, and is now 52% ATS (157-148-5) for the season.
Florida scores 72.5 PPG for the season, but has just 62.7 PPG over the past three games and 59.0 PPG in the past two road tilts. However, the Gators defense remains one of the stingiest in the land, giving up a paltry 53.0 PPG, including limiting its two March opponents to 46.0 PPG (wins versus Alabama and Vanderbilt). The Gators are 7-4 (SU and ATS) on the road this season, and have been a great wager after an ATS win at 10-3 ATS (77%). The dangerous thing about this team is their great depth, as eight players log at least 16 MPG and all eight of those players score at least 5.6 PPG. Guards Kenny Boynton (12.6 PPG, 3.0 APG) and Mike Rosario (12.6 PPG) lead the team in scoring and both are nearly automatic from the foul line at 83% FT and 85% FT, respectively. Six-foot-10 PF Erik Murphy (12.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG) also shoots well from the charity stripe (82% FT), but his greatest value is that he knocks down 47% of his threes. C Patric Young (10.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.8 BPG) controls the paint and takes high-percentage shots at 62% FG. And the offense flows very well through PG Scottie Wilbekin (9.1 PPG, 5.2 APG), who is an excellent floor general with a robust 2.52 Ast/TO ratio. All five of these players scored at least nine points in the win over Kentucky, with Young grabbing 11 boards and Wilbekin dishing out eight assists. Top reserve, swingman Casey Prather (6.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG), also played well against Kentucky with 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
Kentucky's offense is even more potent than Florida's, scoring 74.3 PPG, but the team has been held to 61.0 PPG on 41.0% FG and 9-of-40 threes (22.5%) during its two-game losing skid. The defense holds teams to 64.9 PPG this season, but has allowed 70+ points in five of the six games since Noel got hurt. Like Florida, the Wildcats have great offensive balance with six players tallying at least 9.4 PPG. SG Archie Goodwin (14.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG) leads the team in scoring, but makes just 44% FG and 28% threes. PF Alex Poythress (11.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG) is much more accurate from the field (59% FG), and also leads the club with a 43.3% clip from three-point range. SF Kyle Wiltjer (10.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG) provides accurate long-range shooting (38.2% threes) despite his 43% FG mark. PG Ryan Harrow (10.2 PPG, 3.0 APG) runs the point with a decent 1.93 Ast/TO ratio. SG Julius Mays (9.4 PPG) is the top reserve, while C Willie Cauley-Stein (8.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG) has been getting more minutes since Noel went down, averaging an excellent 12.4 PPG and 9.2 RPG in his past five contests. Cauley-Stein and Mays were the only Wildcats to score in double-figures in Gainesville last month, with each of them scoring exactly 10 points. Goodwin scored eight points with four turnovers, Poythress scored five points on a horrible 1-of-9 shooting, Wiltjer had seven points in 23 minutes, and Harrow was held scoreless (0-for-3 FG) in 19 minutes in the loss to Florida.