NCAAB Betting Guide for Kentucky vs Florida | Cats to Dominate Inside

NCAAB Betting Guide for Kentucky vs Florida | Cats to Dominate Inside article feature image

Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images. Pictured: Cason Wallace (Kentucky)

Kentucky vs Florida Odds

Wednesday, Feb. 22
7 p.m. ET
Kentucky Odds
-110o / -110u
Florida Odds
-110o / -110u
Odds via DraftKings. Get up-to-the-minute college basketball odds here.

Rematch season continues in the SEC as Kentucky heads down to Gainesville, aiming for a sweep of Florida.

In the first matchup, Kentucky handled its business at Rupp Arena. The Wildcats led by as many as 14 points in the second half, ultimately securing a five-point win after a late Florida rally.

Kentucky’s rebounding supremacy proved pivotal, as did efficient performances from UK guards Cason Wallace and Sahvir Wheeler (combined 10-of-13 from 2-point range).

Shockingly, Oscar Tshiebwe was a dismal 2-of-14 from the field, but his 15 rebounds clearly impacted the outcome.

The interior edge should shift even further towards Kentucky in the rematch. Colin Castleton, Florida’s star center, is out with an injury, and he had 25 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three blocks in the first meeting.

The Gators will miss him dearly.

Kentucky Wildcats

Big Blue Nation’s panic has subsided somewhat as Kentucky’s postseason hopes have stabilized.

Two consecutive Quad 1 wins — including one on the road — have firmed up the Wildcats’ resume. Bracket Matrix now has Kentucky slotted as a nine seed, and all 104 brackets include the Wildcats.

The challenge, then, is to continue that upward trajectory. This matchup presents another huge opportunity. Earning a Q1 win on the road is always tough, but Castleton’s absence makes it more viable.

The Wildcats’ surge has aligned with a playmaking breakout from Wallace, the decorated freshman. In two games against Tennessee and Mississippi State — both top-five defenses, per KenPom — Wallace amassed 17 assists to just four turnovers.

His shooting stroke has vanished, but with Kentucky’s typical onslaught on the boards, it has not mattered.

Wallace’s star turn has come without Wheeler, who has missed four straight games with a right ankle/foot injury.

Sharpshooter CJ Fredrick (ribs) has also been sidelined.

The shorter rotation has seemingly bolstered the confidence of the regulars.

Chris Livingston, the other elite 2022 recruit, has played two terrific games in a row. He’s a physical menace, and he has picked his spots well offensively while being a disruptor on the other end.

Perhaps most importantly from a matchup perspective, Florida is not a devastating pick-and-roll team. For all of his valuable contributions, Tshiebwe has really struggled defending in space this season.

Sweeping Tennessee aligns with this. The Vols do not run much pick-and-roll, letting a huge Wildcat weakness off the hook.

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Florida Gators

Even by their own expectations, the Gators have disappointed this season.

After Todd Golden took San Francisco to its first NCAA tournament since 1998, Florida had high hopes in his first year in charge.

Instead, the Gators’ lofty aspirations have been torpedoed by an anemic offense.

Ranking 130th via KenPom’s Adjusted Offensive Efficiency (AdjOE), Florida simply cannot score enough to consistently beat quality foes. Perimeter shooting is in short supply, allowing foes to comfortably clog the paint.

What success Florida had this year was often due to the exploits of Castleton. The fifth-year center was an offensive fulcrum, scoring efficiently in the post or spraying the ball to open teammates when double-teamed.

Unfortunately, a broken hand has sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

Florida struggled mightily in its first game without him, falling by 19 to Arkansas on the road. The Gators hung around for a half, but a 17-2 run to open the second stanza buried the short-handed squad.

Against competent defenses, Florida will have an immensely difficult time generating offense.

The defense also drops off a cliff sans Castleton. Per Hoop-Explorer, Florida is +18.5 points per 100 possessions when the big man is on the floor this year (adjusted for competition).

That plummets to +0.8 per 100 without him.

Crucially, the most obvious difference is in rim defense. When he played, foes shot 50.1% at the basket. Without him, that rises to 60.4%.

Florida’s best attribute this season was its stalwart paint protection. Castleton’s injury robs the Gators of that strength.

To wit: Arkansas shot 32-of-49 (65.3%) inside the arc on Saturday. The Gators may be in trouble.

Kentucky vs Florida Betting Pick

Unsurprisingly, this line is in opposition to projections from KenPom (Florida -2) and Bart Torvik (Florida -2.1). Casleton’s absence is that impactful, more so than Wheeler and Fredrick’s TBD status.

The matchup amplifies that issue. Much like Arkansas, Kentucky is a team that eschews the 3-ball and prefers to pound the paint. Without Castleton, Tshiebwe could feast.

Florida’s coaching staff will know this, of course, and they'll likely pack the paint. Florida’s route to hanging around is forcing Wallace and Antonio Reeves to take jump shots and hope they remain cold.

On the other end, Florida lacks the perimeter playmakers and shooting to put Kentucky in rotation. After UK held Tennessee to 0.86 points per possession, the Wildcats have to be feeling better about their defensive ceiling.

Though I had hoped to lay less than three, I will stick with Kentucky here. The matchup edges and differing team trajectories set up well for Big Blue Nation.

Pick: Kentucky -3.5 (Play to -4)

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