Kentucky - Florida
TOP-RANKED KENTUCKY TRIES TO STAY UNDEFEATED AGAINST HATED ARCHRIVAL FLORIDA SATURDAY NIGHT
Before the season started, Saturday night's Kentucky/Florida game was one of the most anticipated of the season. That's why ESPN locked it in for "GameDay" coverage on site. Kentucky wasn't just a consensus #1 team...but there were already thoughts that they might be able to run the table and go undefeated on their way to another National Championship. The highest hurdle in the way was going to be always dangerous Florida.
Except...Florida isn't that dangerous!
Even though the SEC has been disappointing (again!), the Gators have only managed a 5-4 straight up record in league play on the heels of several disappointing early season results in non-conference action. The Gators are just 12-10 straight up 22 games into the season! They might not even make the Big Dance come March if they don't close strong down the stretch.
Obviously an upset of Kentucky would look great on the resume. Does Florida have the horses to even compete? Can a loud and boisterous home crowd provide the "sixth man" it would take to stick a loss on Kentucky's ledger? Let's see what we can learn from JIM HURLEY'S key indicator stats...
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency
Kentucky: 116.6 per 100 possessions (#9 in the nation)
Florida: 104.5 per 100 possessions (#102 in the nation)
Florida's biggest problem this year has been on offense. Many major programs are having this issue in 2015. High school kids can't shoot unless it's a wide open trey! When they get to college, they run into quality defenses that really shut them down. Florida hasn't solved the riddle yet, which will be a big problem against this particular opponent. It's interesting that Kentucky grades out so well in the adjusted numbers of college basketball guru Ken Pomeroy. Part of that is on the shoulders of offensive rebounds. This could be a problem in the Dance if they run into a good rebounding opponent. Kentucky can turn mortal if they're not getting second chance points.
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency
Kentucky: 82.3 per 100 possessions (#1 in the nation)
Florida: 91.3 per 100 possessions (#20 in the nation)
The greatest defense in the nation, and then one of the best 20. So...we have a nightmare scenario for Gators fans...as an inept offense faces a great defense. But, we do have a sign of hope because Florida has a chance to "keep it close" if their own defense can force misses and grab the rebound. The Gators need to force a grinder...then get a little lucky.
And, it's not going to be hard to force a grinder because both teams play at virtually identical slow paces. This isn't quite Wisconsin in terms of waiting forever to shoot. But, the offenses are methodical, or at least take a while to score if it's coming from extended possessions after offensive rebounds. Florida CAN compete in a grinder. This CAN be a game!
Against the Spread
It's not really a strike against Kentucky that they're only 11-11 vs. the number so far. They are always priced like champions, which means they have to play like champions just to have a chance to cover the spread. Las Vegas badly overrated Florida out of the gate...and has taken forever to adjust. You'll have to decide Saturday night whether the market has things figured out. Note that Kentucky has played a lot of Unders this year (roughly two-thirds), which could be a factor if pace forces another plodding yawner.
JIM HURLEY may or may not be releasing a play in this game. The Saturday schedules are HUGE, and there's no reason to force something just because a game is on TV. He'll be looking at other marquee matchups (like Notre Dame/Duke and Louisville/Virginia), but will also study all the mid-major conferences where some of the best midseason have has historically resided. You only get BEST BETS when you sign up with NETWORK!
You can purchase the final word for Saturday here at the website with your credit card in the hours before first tip. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-800-323-4453. Be sure to ask about packages that take you through March Madness or the NBA Championship in June.
We'll spend a day in the NBA tomorrow before jumping back on the road to March Madness. Here's the upcoming NOTEBOOK schedule...
Sunday: NBA Big Game Preview...LA Clippers at the Oklahoma City Thunder
Monday: College Basketball Preview...Duke at Florida State in the ACC
Tuesday: College Basketball Preview...New Mexico at Colorado State in the M-West
Wednesday: College Basketball Preview...Villanova at Providence in the Big East
Thursday: College Basketball Preview...Stanford at Utah in the Big 12
We'll keep you abreast of as many conferences as we can as we glide toward the tournaments. If you're serious about basketball handicapping, you need to read the NOTEBOOK every day! It's wall-to-wall basketball for the next couple of months. HOOP IT UP with JIM HURLEY'S NETWORK!
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