Kentucky-Florida Preview

#2 KENTUCKY at FLORIDA

When: 9 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 12

Where: O’Connell Center, Gainesville, Fla.

TV: ESPN

Radio: Big Blue Sports Network

Series: Kentucky leads 86-32

Last Season: Feb. 10 – @ UK 68, Florida 65; Mar. 7 – @ Florida 60, UK 53

Records: UK (16-0, 1-0 SEC), Florida (11-4, 0-1)

Backcourt

Because of the goliath-sized shadow John Wall casts over everything he’s associated with, Florida freshman Kenny Boynton has gotten little attention in the SEC this season, despite averaging a stellar 14.6 points and 3.5 assists per contest.  I haven’t gotten the chance to see him play much, but from what I’ve seen, his game appears to be solid, but a bit more blue collar than Wall’s.  He’s not as flashy, and he lacks the explosive athleticism Wall’s game comes with an excess of.

The other guy in the backcourt is Erving Walker, the Spud Webb/Muggsy Bogues-esque player that whose emergence last year may or may not have been the driving force behind Jai Lucas’ transfer to Texas.  The 5’8’’ sophomore is having another solid season, averaging 11.5 points and 5.0 assists/game so far.

Florida’s backcourt is solid, but they don’t match up well at all against the Wall-Bledsoe duo of Kentucky. Walker’s game is predicated on speed and quickness, and unfortunately for him you won’t find many backcourts in the country that have more speed and quickness than Kentucky’s.  Wall and Bledsoe both are super-quick; plus, Wall’s a limb-heavy 6’4’’ and Bledsoe’s a solid, running back-esque 6’0’’—Erving will have a tough time getting around either of them with any consistency.  Look for him to try and make his living from behind the 3-point line tonight.

This Boynton character is a little more interesting, however; it will be worth watching how Wall does against him.  Offensively, I expect Wall to do fine (nobody can stay in front of him).  But, defensively, Boynton’s craftiness and jump shot may give him some trouble.

Wings

The big question going into tonight is the sudden battle for Kentucky’s starting small-forward spot.  Darius Miller has looked a little shaky of late, while DeAndre Liggins has come roaring out of Calipari’s doghouse with such a fury that he has many saying he should be the one starting for us at the 3-spot.  Tonight will be a good test for both of them: On the road, in the SEC, against a rival opponent.

Despite being considered something of a disappointment ever since he’s arrived, Chandler Parsons is averaging double-figures this year for the Gators (11.2/game).

Parsons is actually a guy that I’m a little worried about for tonight’s game.  His outside shot could spell trouble for Kentucky, seeing how we have so many problems defending the 3-point shot.  If he’s able to knock a couple down, look for some extra minutes from Ramon Harris tonight, who gives Kentucky some much-needed perimeter defense when he’s in the game.

Bigs

Vernon Macklin (10.0 points, 5.5 rebounds) and Alex Tyus (11.7 points, 6.5 rebounds) are both having solid seasons for Billy Donovan’s squad, but they’ll get a serious test tonight when they go up against Patrick Patterson and DeMarcus Cousins of Kentucky.

Tyus is a little thin, which creates problems for the him and the Gators, because Patterson and Cousins are both built like rhinos.  Vernon Macklin’s physique is a bit more appropriate for the kind of physical play that’s sure to happen tonight: He’s 6’8’’ and 240 lbs. with the reputation of a bruiser down low.  Still, it’s hard to imagine any way he could check Patterson and Cousins all night.  Cousins has been on a tear lately, and I expect Patterson to come out with some extra zeal tonight after being called out by Calipari for his lack of effort in the Georgia game.

Prediction

Kentucky wins it by 13, 78-65.  Florida always plays Kentucky tough, and the first conference road game has the potential to give this young Kentucky line up some trouble.  Plus, Florida’s four losses make it easy to forget that they did beat Michigan State to early in the season, so it’s impossible to completely write them off.  Donovan’s team has slipped a little over the past two seasons, but they’re far being bottom dwellers: All of their starters are averaging double-figures and they’re coming off their best shooting performance of the season (even though they lost) against Vanderbilt.  But, even with all that, Kentucky is better than Florida at every position, and that’s hard to overcome. I expect the road environment to give the younger Cats some trouble early, but look for them to settle in quickly and take care of business accordingly.

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