By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer
After a lackluster first 26 games, Coach Calipari’s Cats turned an important corner, finishing the season 7-1 and winning another SEC Tournament Championship on route to a #5 seed in the NCAA’s South Region. On Thursday night, the Wildcats clad in blue and white will fact a group of Wildcats dressed in red from Davidson College.
Davidson has also finished their 2017-18 season with a strong foot forward, winning 8 of their last 9 games after struggling to an unimpressive 13-10 record. We can be certain that Wildcats will advance to the second round where they are likely to encounter another group of Wildcats, of the Arizona type, and the question is will it be red ones playing the red/blue version or blue ones playing the red/blue version from Arizona.
The Kentucky Wildcats have faced the Davidson Wildcats only once prior to this game. That occurred in the NCAA Tournament in 1986 in the first round, and the Cats from Kentucky beat the Cats from Davidson by 20 points, 75-55.
Granted, Davidson has finished strong, but few teams, including Davidson have been playing any better basketball over the last 8 games than the Kentucky Wildcats, posting an average ANE of 0.319 ppp, which is considerably higher than the team’s season long average ANE of 0.208 ppp. In contrast, Davidson has played its final games at an average ANE of 0.214 ppp, which is higher than its season long ANE 0.164 ppp.
Since I am attached to my “numbers” at the hip, I will remain true to form and report that based on these numbers, Kentucky is favored to beat Davidson by 4 points, 74-70. Pomeroy sees this game in Kentucky’s favor by 3 points, 73-70, and Vegas has the Cats favored by 5 ½ points as of Tuesday.
However, based on the recent performance by both teams as their seasons moved toward this moment, these limited scope numbers indicate a Kentucky win over the Davidson Wildcats by 7. If the Cats win by 7 or more points, I believe it is a fair reading that the Kentucky surge is continuing to unfold.
Use the following link to see how other UK fans handicap this game at 247Sports, The Cats Pause message board:
You can participate in the score prediction contest at 247Sports at the following link: