NCAA Tournament East Region: (4) Kentucky Wildcats vs. (13) Stony Brook Seawolves

It has taken Alex Poythress over two seasons to rehab just to the level of play he achieved as a freshman.
It has taken Alex Poythress over two seasons to rehab just to the level of play he achieved as a freshman.

4 UK vs. 13 STON
Time: 8:40 PM CT
Spread: UK -14
Total: 143.5

Betting odds c/o 5dimes

The Kentucky Wildcats finished the season ranked No. 10 as the owners of a 26-8 record and first place finish in the SEC. Kentucky is not expected to have much of a problem facing No. 13 seeded Stony Brook in the second round of the NCAA tournament. College basketball oddsmakers at 5dimes have set the line 14 points in favor of the Wildcats with a betting total of 143.5.

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Kentucky was ranked No. 16 prior to its 82-77 OT win over Texas A&M in the SEC championship. It was Kentucky’s 29th SEC title, and Tyler Ulis came through huge in the win. Luis shot 10 of 17 from the field and 3 of 5 from three-point range to finish with 30 points, five assists, three rebounds and three steals. Three other Cats scored in double figures in the game, and senior forward Alex Poythress had a nice game with 10 points and six boards.

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Poythress at one point was projected to be an NBA lottery pick. A knee injury and the resulting mediocrity of his play has sort of killed his draft chances, but he is a leader on Kentucky. The 6’8” forward averaged 10.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game this season in 23 minutes a night, which basically just gets him back to the level of production he had as a freshman in 2012-13.

But his leadership cannot be underestimated, and he still plays a very valuable role for the Wildcats. He had 20 points and seven rebounds in the 85-59 blowout of Alabama on Mar. 11 and he has scored in double figures in six of his last seven games.

Kentucky’s premier talent is Jamal Murray. He led the tam in scoring at 20.1 points per game, while shooting 45.6 percent from the floor and 42.1 percent from three. Kentucky shot 36.9 percent from behind the arc as a team, but outside of Murray, Ulis and Derek Willis, there are really no other three point shooters on the team. Ulis also shot just 34 percent from three this year while averaging 17.2 points and 7.2 assists per game. He remains a second round prospect in the NBA draft.

Murray should be a high lottery pick. A 6’5” freshman sure to be a one and done, Murray has been sensational. He has scored 20 or more in four of the Cats last five games, and he had 26 points in the 93-80 win over Georgia on Mar 12 in the SEC tournament. However, Kentucky was just 12-6 this season when Murray scored 20 points or more. Might relying on him too heavily damage Kentucky’s chances?

Stony Brook won the American East conference, defeating the Vermont Catamounts 80-74 in the American East title game.

Senior Jameel Warney looked like a veritable 6’8” Wilt Chamberlain in the game, scoring 43 points on 18 of 22 shooting while grabbing 10 rebounds and swatting four shots. He shot 63 percent from the field this season while averaging 19.8 points and 10.7 rebounds per game. He has scored 20 or more in four of his past five games, and his 27 point, 23 rebound effort against UMBC was a monster stat night in its own right.

Stony Brook did finish the season 26-6, and the Seawolves lost the only matchup it had against a tough opponent when it lost to No. 17 Vanderbilt 79-72 in the season’s second game. Stony Brook averages 77 points per game while shooting 47 percent from the floor as a team and 37 percent from three-point range.

The Seawolves are a poor shooting team at the line, however, hitting just 67 percent of free throws as a team. But the Seawolves do keep turnovers down to just 11 per game, and it did take care of business with a feather soft schedule.

It is hard to imagine the Seawolves coming within even single digits of Kentucky, notwithstanding that the Wildcats are not the level of powerhouse that they had been in recent seasons.

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