The No. 10 Kentucky Wildcats will host the Florida Gators Saturday. The Wildcats will look to fend off the Gators and hold on to their No. 1 spot in the SEC, while Florida will look to upset Kentucky and rise ranks in the SEC.
Both teams have a solid win streak going, as Florida has won three straight games, and Kentucky will be looking to make it six straight against Florida. If Florida is able to pull off an upset on the road, it will prove to be a much-needed statement win against a ranked team.
Florida comes in as 4.5-point underdogs in this one, but before we make our pick, let’s evaluate what each team brings to Saturday’s game.
Florida needs a statement win
For the Florida Gators to get an invitation to the Big Dance, a statement win over a ranked team is almost necessary. They’re already on a three-game win streak, which has garnered them some much-needed attention, but a win over Kentucky could put them in prime position.
After the Gators destroyed Arkansas 73-59, eyes have been on Florida’s forward Keyontae Johnson. If the Gators want any chance at winning, Johnson will need to repeat his performance from Tuesday, this time against Kentucky.
The good news for Florida is other players around Johnson are starting to step up as well, in that same game against Arkansas, Andrew Nembhard added 17 points and four assists.
Considering Kentucky is going to do all they can to stop Keyontae Johnson, the rest of the Florida squad will need to step up and take on a bigger role. If the Gators remain solely reliant on Johnson to produce or try to force him the ball too much, Kentucky will capitalize on it and force turnovers.
The Gators are well under .500 against the spread, which would usually deter bettors from choosing them. However, it’s worth it to note that they’re 4-2 ATS against Kentucky, although they don’t often beat Kentucky straight-up. A strange trend to note is that the total has gone under in eight of Florida’s last eight games against Kentucky on the road.
Kentucky looking to stay in control of SEC
The Kentucky Wildcats are currently ranked No. 10 in the country, with an invitation to the Big Dance in their sights, a win over Florida will almost guarantee it. Currently on a five-game win streak, their most recent win being a close one against LSU (79-76), Kentucky now has their eyes set on Florida.
The Wildcats have a near-perfect record at home (14-1) and haven’t lost a game to Florida since 2018. They can’t come in overconfident though, as the Gators have a stellar forward in Keyontae Johnson, and Kentucky should make it a point to shut him down.
Kentucky overall has a very strong team, and although names like Immanuel Quickley tend to stick out more, the team as a whole has stepped up. More than likely forward Nick Richards will be tasked with slowing down Florida’s Keyontae Johnson. The only thing that worries me is Richards rolled his ankle in their last game and is listed as questionable.
Overall, Kentucky is under .500 against the spread as well, although slightly better than Florida. The good news is they’ve gone 4-2 ATS in their last six games, be sure to remember the Gators play well against Kentucky when covering a spread though.
Pick and Prediction
Kentucky is one of the best teams at home with an almost perfect record. What concerns me is I feel like Florida will catch them off-guard in this one, like Auburn did earlier this month.
Considering Nick Richards could be missing in this game, covering Keyontae Johnson is going to be difficult for the Wildcats.
This might sound like a risky pick, going with an unproven underdog against a top-ten contender and SEC leader, but I have my reasons. Florida is looking for a shot at the Big Dance, beating Kentucky could be their last shot at that opportunity.
With more Florida players stepping up around Keyontae Johnson, the Gators have a real shot at pulling off this upset. I’ll take the visiting team, Florida Gators +4.5.