Kentucky vs. Florida Top Picks for Wednesday: No Castleton, Likely No Shot For Gators

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Jacob Toppin #0 of the Kentucky Wildcats shoots the ball and has it blocked by Colin Castleton #12 of the Florida Gators during the second half of their game. Michael Hickey/Getty Images/AFP

NCAAB Pick: Kentucky -2.5 (-110) at BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Kentucky -2.5 (-110)
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Kentucky vs. Florida used to be the best rivalry in the SEC because those were the best basketball programs in the league. That’s not the case this year, but it’s still an important game on Wednesday when they meet in Gainesville.

Which side of the 3-point spread has the best value at the top-rated Florida betting sites? Let’s break down the NCAA basketball odds for tonight and find out.

Kentucky Wildcats vs. Florida Gators

Wednesday, February 22, 2023 – 07:00 PM EST at Exactech Arena at Stephen C. O’Connell Center

Neither Kentucky nor Florida has a shot to win the SEC regular-season title, but it’s important for conference tournament seeding and the NCAA Tournament hopes of both when they meet on Wednesday with ESPN having the telecast. 

The Wildcats eye the season sweep as they were 4.5-point home favorites at the top-rated books on Feb. 4 and beat Florida 72-67, leading wire-to-wire despite reigning National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe totaling just four points on 2-for-14 shooting before fouling out.

Kentucky's freshman Cason Wallace had 20 points and Jacob Toppin had 17 points and 10 rebounds. The Florida Gators' Colin Castleton finished with 25 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and three blocks. More on Castleton below.  

UK leads the all-time series 108-41 and has won the past three. Under Coach John Calipari, the Cats are 23-9 in the series. The favorite is 12-5 ATS in the past 17 meetings.  

Sight Set on the Big Dance

About 10 days ago, Kentucky was upset 75-68 at Georgia to fall to 16-9 overall and 7-5 in the SEC and was squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble. UK will never fire Coach John Calipari, but he was taking some heat. All is well in Lexington for now, though, as the Cats are off the bubble following a 71-68 win at Mississippi State last Wednesday and then a 66-54 win over No. 10 Tennessee on Saturday to sweep the season series. 

There’s no way Kentucky is left out of the Big Dance now. ESPN lists UK as a No. 8 seed in the East Region and opening against No. 9 Pittsburgh, while CBS Sports has Kentucky as a No. 9 in the East and facing No. 8 Iowa. 

Will Kentucky Get Guards Back? 

Freshmen carried the Wildcats past the Vols as Cason Wallace had 16 points, six rebounds, and six assists. Chris Livingston had 12 points and a career-high 10 rebounds, his first career double-double, as UK swept a regular-season two-game series vs. Tennessee for the first time since 2012. Livingston was named SEC Freshman of the Week for the first time. Wallace has won it three times.  

Kentucky improved to 87-0 all-time under Calipari, including 4-0 this season, when keeping the opponent to 55 points or fewer. The Wildcats are 230-24 under Coach Cal when the opponent shoots 40% or less from the field and 325-13 when leading by at least 10 points at some point during the game.

The Wildcats are also 18-4 this season when winning the rebounding battle. Oscar Tshiebwe leads the nation in rebounding at 13.0 rpg. He is also 15 points shy of becoming a 1,000-point UK scorer. He would be the 61st player to achieve the feat. 

The Cats have been without guards CJ Fredrick and Sahvir Wheeler the past few games due to injury and it's not clear if they play Wednesday. Wheeler averages 7.7 points and 5.6 assists and Fredrick, the Iowa transfer, 7.3 points. Wheeler is fifth in SEC history with 656 career assists. Kentucky has played just 13 games at full strength this season.

A win Wednesday would move Calipari into sole possession of the fifth place for the most SEC regular-season wins in league history and it would be the fifth win in a row in Gainesville for the program. In terms of NCAAB picks, UK is 4-1 ATS in its past five road games.  

Gators Badly Miss Castleton 

Barring a surprising run to the SEC Tournament title, it appears Florida (14-13, 7-7 SEC) will miss the NCAA Tournament under first-year coach Todd Golden. The Gators are 52nd in the NCAA NET Rankings and an ugly 2-11 vs. Quad 1 opponents. Neither ESPN nor CBS Sports lists Florida even among its First Four Out of the Big Dance. 

UF took a huge gut punch when senior forward Colin Castleton, who averages 16.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and an SEC-high 3.0 blocks, suffered a likely season-ending broken hand on Feb. 15 against Ole Miss.

In Florida’s first game without him, they lost 84-65 at Arkansas on Saturday as the Hogs had no fear of scoring in the paint without Castleton’s shot-blocking. The Hogs shot 57.6% overall, including 65.3% on two-point shots, scored 52 points in the paint, and outrebounded Florida 40-25. 

"They started getting closer shots to the rim and started getting out in transition a little bit," Golden said. "And I just thought our resistance in the paint, even with it being one of our keys [to the scouting report], was not good enough." 

Prior to his injury, Castleton had four straight 20-point games, including a 29-point, 10-rebound double-double at then-No. 3. Alabama. He had also led the Gators in scoring in eight consecutive contests. 

Castleton's Replacements Are Falling Short

In place of Castleton vs. Arkansas, the Gators started 6-11, 300-pound senior Jason Jitoboh, who finished with four points, two rebounds, and two turnovers over 24 minutes. Jitoboh split time with 6-foot-10 freshman Aleks Szymczyk, a seldom-used German who had played just 15 minutes this season. He saw 20 minutes Saturday and had eight points and six rebounds.  

The Gators got a season-high 25 points from freshmen in Saturday’s loss as Riley Kugel had a team-leading 17 and Szymczyk chipped in eight.  Kugel has scored in double figures in four straight games, averaging 15.5 points during that span. UF is 1-4 ATS in its past five. With 139 points scored in the first meeting and no Castleton this time, we have to lean under 140.5. This may not be very close.  

The Picks

NCAAB Pick: Kentucky -2.5 (-110) at BetOnline

NCAAB Pick: Under 140.5 (-113) at BetOnline

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Under 140.5 (-113)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.