By RICHARD CHEEKS
Barely three weeks ago, Kentucky traveled to Gainesville where they took it on the chin in an humiliating 22-point loss, 88-66, to a very good Florida basketball team. If the lackluster play that the Cats had fallen into while winning at Vanderbilt and Mississippi State, and against Auburn at Rupp were not sufficient to sound the alarm for this team, then perhaps the beating the Gators delivered would get their attention.
If the back-to-back losses at Tennessee and to Kansas at Rupp were not sufficient to sound the alarm for this team, then perhaps the beating the Gators delivered would get their attention.
Since February 4,, the Cats have put together a 5-game winning streak. During this time of winning, the Cats have also been on the mend, playing better basketball over these five games than they had played since beating Arkansas on January 7.
Saturday afternoon, the Gators will come into Rupp Arena for the long awaited rematch, an opportunity for this team to announce to the entire basketball world that they are corrected their course and the Cats are Back in the hunt for championships.
A win on Saturday over the Gators will be huge toward championships. First, a win over the Gators will all but deliver the SEC regular season championship, and the #1 seed for the SEC Tournament championship. Second, a win over the Gators should lift the Cats to the 2 line for NCAA tournament seeding. Third, the Cats will have avenged the most embarrassing loss of the season against a legitimate top 10 opponent and position the Cats for a legitimate run for #9.
The Gators have not been idle in their pursuit of the SEC Championship since then pounded the Cats in Gainesville. Florida enters Rupp on an impressive nine game win streak. The Gators started this winning streak following their back-to-back losses at South Carolina and to Vanderbilt at home. Overall, FLORIDA enters this game with a 23-5; 13-2 record. There is not an embarrassing loss to Florida’s credit this season, falling to #1 Gonzaga by 5 on a neutral court, to #14 Duke by 10 on a neutral court, at #18 Florida State by 5, at #29 South Carolina by 4, and to #51 Vanderbilt by 2.
Without doubt, Florida’s most impressive win this season was its 22-point pounding of the Cats in Gainesville. FLORIDA enters this game with an ANE of 0.295 points per possession against strength of schedule of 0.1051 ppp (#17).
The Cats enter this game with an ANE of 0.291 ppp against strength of schedule of 0.0894 ppp (#30). The ANE analysis indicates a Kentucky win by 6 points, 77-71 at apace of 75 possessions. This would produce game efficiencies of 1.031 ppp and 0.950 ppp. Pomeroy sees this game in Kentucky’s favor by 3 points 80-77 at a pace of 74 possessions.
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