By RICHARD CHEEKS, Contributing Writer
On Tuesday night, the Cats beat the Bayou Bengals in Baton Rouge, and on Wednesday Auburn fell at Georgia. These midweek SEC results propelled the Cats into a commanding 2 game lead over Florida, LSU, and Auburn for the SEC regular season championship with five games left on the schedule. Over these last five games, the Cats will play 3 times against this second place trio: Florida home and away, and Auburn at Rupp.
Florida also plays three games against the leaders, hosting LSU next Wednesday in addition to their home and away games against the Cats. LSU only plays at Florida, and Auburn only plays at Kentucky. Kentucky of course holds its own fate in its hands, and of the other three, only Florida has that distinction. If the Cats beat the Gators on Saturday, Florida will no longer have the ability to win the SEC without a Kentucky collapse.
FLORIDA brings its 17-9, 9-4 record into the Saturday evening encounter with the Cats. However, after a 12-8, 4-3 start, FLORIDA has won five of its last six games. The Gators beat #146 Vanderbilt by 6 (0.18 ppp Game ANE), beat #96 Georgia by 6 (0.14 ppp Game ANE), lost to #91 Mississippi by 17 (-0.09 ppp Game ANE), beat #161 Texas A&M Vanderbilt by 9 (0.38 ppp Game ANE), beat #146 Vanderbilt again by 18 (0.24 ppp Game ANE), and beat #41 Arkansas by 14 (0.35 ppp Game ANE). FLORIDA has posted an average ANE over these last 6 games of 0.20 ppp.
Kentucky brings a five-game winning streak into this game. After losing at #36 Auburn, the Cats have beaten #45 Mississippi State by 8 (0.22 ppp Game ANE), #54 Tennessee by 13 (0.41 ppp Game ANE), #146 Vanderbilt by 14 (0.29 ppp Game ANE), #91 Mississippi by 5 (0.12 ppp Game ANE), and #35 LSU by 3 (0.29 ppp Game ANE), which is an average ANE of 0.27 ppp over these last 5 games.
FLORIDA’s season ANE of 0.195 ppp against a schedule strength of 0.104 ppp and an average tempo of 67.2 possessions per game. Kentucky’s season ANE of 0.204 ppp against a schedule strength of 0.072 ppp at an average tempo of 69.2. The ANE analysis based on these season profiles points to 5 point Kentucky win, 72-67 in a game played with 68 possessions. If the teams play on Tuesday night as they each have played their last 5 or 6 games, then the Cats should beat the Gators by 9 or more.