Kentucky and Florida Battle for SEC Championship in Atlanta

SEC Championship Game
Kentucky Wildcats vs Florida Gators
Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
Sunday, March 13, 2011, 1:00 pm Eastern, TV: ABC
Opening Line: Kentucky -2
Current Line: Florida -1
Opening Total: 138
Current Total: 138
Money Line: Florida -120 / Kentucky Even

The Florida Gators take on rival Kentucky in the SEC Championship game Sunday. Florida is a slight favorite

Three weeks from today the Georgia Dome hosts the WWE’s Wrestlemania 27, but first a smackdown of a different sort. Kentucky and Florida meet for the third time this season with the SEC title on the line. The two teams are both ranked in the top 16. Kentucky is #16 with a 24-8 record. They finished SEC play with a 10-6 record, good enough for second in the East Division. The Wildcats have won five straight games, a streak that started with a 76-68 victory over Florida at Rupp Arena. In the SEC tournament Kentucky beat Ole Miss 75-66 in the quarters and beat Alabama 72-58 in the semifinals. However, the victory against Alabama was costly as Kentucky guards Doron Lamb and DeAndre Liggins both went down with ankle injuries. Lamb is listed as questionable to doubtful for the game against Florida, but Liggins is expected to play. Kentucky only has a 10 man roster and usually only has a six man rotation. Being without Lamb and/or Liggins will certainly change coach John Calipari’s strategy as far as players in the rotation. Florida is 26-6 overall and won the SEC regular season title outright. They are ranked #12. Florida has won 10 of their last 11 games, with the only loss coming at Kentucky. Florida beat Kentucky in Gainesville earlier in the season 70-68. in the SEC tournament Florida was behind against Tennessee in the quarters and Vanderbilt in the semis before coming back to win both games. The Gators beat Tennessee 85-74 and Vanderbilt 77-66.

Kentucky leads the overall series against Florida 89-33 including 10-3 in neutral site games. Kentucky has won 5 of the last 7 in the series. Florida is 5-1-1 ATS in those games though.

In addition to the Lamb and Liggins injuries, Terrance Jones also tweaked his ankle but is listed as probable.  Kentucky is a very young team with 5 freshmen among the 10 players on the roster. Four Wildcats score in double figures.  Point guard Brandon Knight is a freshman and scores 17.7 points, averages 4.1 rebounds and leads the team in assists with 4.1 a game. Freshman forward  Jones averages 16.8 points, 9.1 rebounds to lead the team, and 1.9 blocks a game to lead the team. He also averages 1.7 assists and 1.1 steals a game.   Freshman shooting guard  Lamb is averaging  13.2 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.9 assists a game.  Darius Miller averages 11.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 1.1 blocks a game. Junior Guard Liggins averages 8.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and leads the team in steals with 1.3 a game. Josh Harrellson is averaging 8.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks a game. No other Wildcat plays more than 9 minutes a game.  Kentucky is outscoring opponents 77-64 on the season.  Kentucky is shooting 46.2% from the field and 39.6% from 3 point range. The Wildcats are holding opponents to 39.1% shooting from the field. The Wildcats are shooting 71.3% from the free throw line. Kentucky averages 38.3 rebounds a game and have a rebounding margin of +4.5. The Wildcats are averaging 12.8 assists and 10.8 turnovers a game. They force 12.3 turnovers a game on defense. Kentucky averages 5.5 steals and 6.3 blocks a game.

Florida has no significant injuries right now.  The Gators are led by guard Erving Walker. He is averaging 14.5 points to lead the team, 3 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.2 steals a game to lead the team. He is shooting 37.5% from 3-point range. Guard Kenny Boynton is averaging 13.9 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists a game. Center Vernon Macklin is averaging 11.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, and leads the team in blocks with 0.7 a game. He struggles from the free throw line converting only 45.9% from the stripe. Chandler Parsons averages 11.5 points, 7.7 rebounds to lead the team, 3.6 assists to lead the team, and 1 steal a game. Florida is outscoring opponents 72-63 on the season. The Gators are shooting 46.4% from the field and 35.6% from 3-point range. Gator opponents are shooting 42.5% from the field. The Gators shoot 67% from the free throw line. Florida averages 37.6 rebounds a game and has a rebounding margin of +6.2. They average 13.8 assists and 12.4 turnovers a game. The Gators force 12.8 turnovers a game on defense. Florida averages 6 steals and 3.5 blocks a game.

Kentucky is already a very thin team, and the injuries don’t help. Playing 3 games in 3 days is taxing on every team but teams that only use a 6 or 7 man rotation are especially vulnerable. Kentucky certainly has the talent to overcome the fatigue. I think this game will be close. Both of these teams will make the NCAA Tournament but are playing for seeding right now. Florida can move up to a 2 or a 3 and Kentucky can move up to a 3 or a 4 seed. Plus the teams really don’t like each other from the coaches on down.

Our college basketball handicappers are red hot in 2011. Don’t miss out on any more winners this season.

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