2012 NCAA Basketball Kentucky @ Florida Odds and Predictions – Free NCAAB Picks 3/4/2012

Free College Basketball Picks and Spreads: Kentucky @ Florida 2012 NCAA Basketball Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions 3/4/12: Although the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats (29-1) have long since clinched the SEC regular season title, Sunday’s showdown against the 13th-ranked Florida Gators (22-8) still has a lot riding on it. The Wildcats are steamrolling their way to the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, but a loss to conference Rival Florida could open the door for Syracuse or another team to sneak up and grab the spot. Not to mention the fact that the Gators would love to grab a statement victory before Selection Sunday and do so at the expense of Kentucky’s perfect SEC record. Even though Florida is the home team, the Wildcats are three-point favorites.

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Sunday’s meeting is a rematch of a February 7 game that Kentucky won going away 78-58. The Wildcats overwhelmed Florida with a balanced attack on offense and used their defense to stifle the up-tempo Gators. Four starters scored in double figures for Kentucky, and the Wildcats outrebounded Florida 36-26. The Gators’ normally potent perimeter attack fell flat, as Florida connect on just six of its 26 attempts from beyond the arc. In short, Kentucky dominated the game in almost every facet.

Both teams bring top-25 offenses to the table, but the Wildcats are the far more efficient team, ranking 11th in the country in field goal percentage. Kentucky also ranks in the top 20 nationally in rebounding. On defense, Kentucky leads the conference in blocked shots by a wide margin. Overall, the Wildcats are the more balanced team, and it showed in their runaway win against the Gators in February.

One of the biggest issues Florida faces when trying to slow down Kentucky is its lack of depth in the frontcourt. Forward Patric Young is the team’s best post player, and even though he had a solid offensive game in the February matchup, he did little too slow down the Wildcats’ big men. Forwards Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist combined for 29 points on 12-for-21 shooting and grabbed 19 rebounds. If the Kentucky big men dominate the paint again Sunday, the Gators are likely to suffer a similar fate.

If Florida is going to turn the tables on the top-ranked team in the country, the Gators have to find a way to take advantage of their edge in the backcourt. Guards Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker and Bradley Beal combine for more than 44 points per game. On the season, they have connected on more than 200 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Kentucky is young and thin in the backcourt, and the Florida trio should be able to create scoring opportunities. That wasn’t the case in February, when Walker went scoreless and the Gators simply weren’t hitting from the outside. Not to mention the fact that Kentucky’s freshman point guard Marquis Teague stole the show, putting up a double-double in points and assists. If Florida’s guards aren’t the best group on the court Sunday, the Gators have almost no chance of winning.

In the end, it is hard to imagine that home-court advantage is going to be enough to erase the 20-point gap that existed between these two teams less than a month ago. Granted, the comfortable surroundings should help improve the Gators’ shooting percentage, but Kentucky’s big advantage in the paint isn’t going away. With Davis and company getting easy scores on the interior and controlling the boards on both ends, Florida would need to make an incredible amount of 3-pointers to spring the upset. That scenario is possible, but not very likely. The Wildcats are the more complete team, and they should end the regular season with their perfect conference record intact.

Prediction: Kentucky Wildcats (-5) Cover the Spread

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College Basketball: Kentucky @ Florida
Date: 3/4/12
Time: 12:00 PM EST on ESPN
Vegas Odds Favorite: Kentucky -5 Total: Over/Under 140

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