Kentucky vs. Florida Odds & Picks: Bet the Gators With Colin Castleton Back in Lineup
James Gilbert/Getty Images. Pictured: Colin Castleton.
- TyTy Washington and the Kentucky Wildcats face Colin Castleton and the Florida Gators in Saturday college hoops action.
- The Gators recently got Castleton back from injury, and the big man's presence has made a huge difference.
- Check out Anthony Dabbundo's full betting guide and pick below.
Kentucky vs. Florida Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
Kentucky had no problems handling Florida in the first meeting between the two teams at Rupp Arena in February. But the Gators are now fighting for their tournament lives in their home finale as Kentucky visits Gainesville on Saturday.
The Wildcats won that first game at home by 21 points, as Oscar Tshiebwe dominated the inside with 27 points and 19 rebounds. The Gators were competitive for a half until Kentucky pulled away late and Florida couldn’t make enough 3-pointers to stay in the game.
Florida is currently in the “Next Four Out,” according to Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology, and is the fifth team out of the field, according to Bracket Matrix. A win on Saturday could be enough to vault the Gators into the NCAA Tournament field, while a loss means they’ll probably need to make a run all the way to the SEC Tournament final to have a chance at the dance.
Florida relies heavily on jump shooting from the perimeter to generate offense, and the Wildcats have been pretty mediocre at guarding the perimeter in SEC play.
If the Gators can make shots, they’re live to pull off the upset given the motivational mismatch with Kentucky having no chance to win the SEC regular-season title outright.
Kentucky has struggled into the finish a bit, even with TyTy Washington and Sahvir Wheeler returning to the lineup for the Arkansas and Ole Miss games.
The Wildcats failed to cover the spread in home games with LSU and Ole Miss and then needed a banked-in 3 at the buzzer to cover at Arkansas in a loss last weekend.
The Cats can only secure a share of the conference title if Auburn loses at home to South Carolina, so there’s not a ton on the line for John Calipari’s squad on Saturday.
Tshiebwe is the most dominant big in the country, and he got the better of Florida’s Colin Castleton in the first meeting, but the Gators have a favorable matchup against him on paper.
Kentucky’s offense excels in three areas: post-ups through Tshiebwe, 3-point shooting through Kellan Grady and finishing at the rim. The Wildcats are top-50 at all three, per ShotQuality.
The defense totally shut down the Gators in the half-court in the last meeting, as Florida posted just 0.74 expected PPP in those settings. But the Gators have gone more up-tempo offensively since then and are up to 113th in offensive average possession length.
The Wildcats have a considerably worse defense in transition than they do in the half-court — about 50 spots worse by national rank (79th in transition defense) — and Florida actually found a ton of offensive success in the first meeting when it ran out.
Florida couldn’t really handle Tshiebwe in the first meeting, but the Wildcats had no answer for Castleton in that game either. He scored 18 points and added seven rebounds on a very efficient shooting game, although the Gators lost the game because the perimeter scorers generated next to nothing offensively.
The Gators defense profiles pretty well as a team that could slow down Kentucky if the Wildcats aren’t sharp. They take away the 3 pretty well, defend the mid-range at a top-40 rate and are elite at turning over opponents.
Florida’s main issue comes on the defensive glass, but it had the same issue against Auburn in an all-in home spot a few weeks ago and managed to compete effectively with the Tigers on the glass in that game. Florida ended with almost as many offensive rebounds as Auburn had at the other end in the win.
Florida’s season-long metrics are a bit deflated because of the time it played without Castleton in the middle of the season, and there’s reason to think the market is underrating it because of that.
UF lost comfortably at Missouri and Tennessee without him, but since he’s returned, the Gators’ only losses came at Kentucky, at Texas A&M on a buzzer-beater and at Arkansas in the final minute.
Florida’s been competitive in all but one game, and the defense especially has improved on the interior with Castleton’s return.
If Florida can get Tshiebwe in foul trouble, it would have a significant mismatch on the inside with Castleton, who could then kick it out to Tyree Appleby and Phlandrous Fleming for open jumpers. Both have struggled over the course of the season but shot it considerably better down the stretch.
Kentucky vs. Florida Betting Pick
The Gators were 11-point underdogs on the road at Rupp in the last meeting but are now catching 5 at home here.
That doesn’t factor in that Kentucky has trended downward a bit since that last meeting and that Florida has improved since Castleton has fully returned from his injury.
This is an all-in spot at home for Florida to play its way into the NCAA Tournament against a Wildcats squad that has been coasting toward the finish in league play for the last few weeks.
Kentucky has especially struggled with slow starts of late, so if you’re looking to play the Wildcats, you’ll probably be able to get a better number live than the -5 currently out there pregame.
Castleton can do enough to limit Tshiebwe’s dominance of the game. If Florida shoots better at home than it did at Rupp, the Gators have a real chance to pull off the upset in what should be a toss-up game.
Pick: Florida +4 or better
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