There are reasons to feel good and bad about tonight’s game in Gainesville. Here’s a little point/counterpoint to help you decide how to feel.
Why UK Will Win
1. Florida has lost 12 straight games vs. teams ranked in the Top 8.
Numbers never lie.
2. Defensive Effort
For the first time in recent memory, Kentucky showed some effort on the defensive end against Georgia. Everybody was upset after the game, but the only time I’ve been happier all year was after the North Carolina game.
Georgia started hitting 9-of-10 shots, and none of them came easy. Once they cooled off and Kentucky hit some layups, they were fine. Tai Wynyard was active in post defense, Malik Monk jumped passing lanes in the zone and Bam Adebayo learned how to play in foul trouble, with his hands straight up.
If the Cats continue to build off their defensive improvements from the Georgia game, naysayers be damned. Nobody will be able to beat this team.
3. Fox and Mulder will be ready.
It’s unlikely, but you never know what could happen. A few threes from Mulder and consistent penetration by Fox, and Florida will be in trouble.
4. The Cats NEED a signature road win.
The last team to win a National Title without a road win over a Top 25 team was the first year Florida won a title with Billy Donavan. UK’s only previous chance was an L at Louisville. The rest of the road in the SEC is smooth sailing. If the Cats don’t capitalize today, a two-seed might be their ceiling.
5. It’s Malik Monk’s Birthday.
He’ll celebrate in Gainesville like Willie Cauley-Stein: by murdering Devin Robinson, again.
Why UK Will Lose
1. The Cats can’t win in the state of Florida.
The football team can’t win in The Swamp, nor could they win in the bowl game (they’ve lost all three Florida bowl games). Even though last year’s team beat South Florida in Miami and got a nine-point road victory last year, playing the Gators on Gameday is a different story. The Gators are 5-1 against UK when GameDay is in town.
2. Florida will not miss from behind-the-arc.
Florida isn’t a bad three-point shooting team, knocking down 36 percent of their tries. However, they’re streaky.
In consecutive losses they failed to hit a three against South Carolina and made just 32 percent in a home loss vs. Vandy. Since suffering their first SEC losses of the year, they’ve won three straight blowouts, shooting 46.3 percent from behind the three-point line (38/82).
Usually teams get hot because they’re playing Kentucky, but this team is currently in the zone from behind the three-point line and I don’t expect them to get out of the zone in front of a packed arena.
3. Fox and Mulder will not be ready.
Mulder hasn’t ran the floor in two and a half weeks. After the ankle injury and an illness, Fox hasn’t been healthy in almost as long. Even if they can contribute, they won’t be able to do it for a long periods of time.
4. Mike White NEEDS it.
Florida has a good enough schedule to ensure a place in the NCAA Tournament, but they haven’t beat a signature opponent, losing to Gonzaga, Florida State, Duke and South Carolina. They need at least one signature win and this might be their last chance.
5. I got a bad feeling.
It’s just a bad gut feeling, I don’t know what it is or why, but it’s not good. However it could be a good sign: the only two times I felt good about the Cats — Louisville and Kansas — didn’t end so well.