Midwest Region Second Round Prediction & Free Pick: #2 Kentucky vs. #7 Wofford

Date | AuthorAllen Moody

Last Updated: 2019-03-22

Wofford is getting plenty of respect in Saturday’s game with the Kentucky Wildcats after the Terriers had an amazing final five minutes against Seton Hall in its opening round game. Wofford closed the game on a 17-2 run, turning a one-point lead into a 16-point blowout.

No. 2 Kentucky didn’t have many problems against Abilene Christian, letting them hover within 22 to 25 points until a 15-4 run with 12 minutes left in the game erased all doubt of the cover.

The teams meet on Saturday back at Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville for a 2:40 p.m. EST match-up. The Wildcats opened as a 6-point favorite over the No. 7 Wildcats and the total opened at 141.5. Even with the Wildcats getting roughly 70% of the early wagers, the line has dropped to 5.5, while the total has moved three full points to 138.5.

It’s a 5.5-hour trip for Wofford fans, which is about half the distance it is for Kentucky fans, but the Wildcats’ fans do travel well, and both teams should have some support. But if it’s a close game down the stretch expect the crowd to be pulling for Wofford, as the crowds tend to pull for the underdog when things are in doubt.

Wofford: It’s unlikely that Cameron Magee will go 7 for 12 on 3-pointers against the Wildcats, but Wofford also received some key production out of Nathan Hoover, Cameron Jackson and Storm Murphy. When three or more players are on, it makes defending a little bit more difficult and keeps defenses from keying on any one or two players too much.

Wofford is shooting over 50% in its last five games and had a solid performance against Seton Hall. The Terriers shoot better than 41% from 3-point range for the season and were 13 of 28 against the Pirates. Defensively, Wofford is solid, holding teams to eight fewer points than they averaged on the season.

Kentucky: The Wildcats did exactly what they wanted to do against Abilene Christian, jump out to an early lead and were able to use their bench players quite a bit, as eight players had 17 or more minutes. Kentucky was simply too athletic for Abilene Christian, pulling down as many offense rebounds in the game as Abilene had total rebounds. Kentucky attempted 12 more field goals and nine more foul shots in the game.

The Wildcats are a pretty good shooting themselves, although they don’t quite put up the same numbers as Wofford but did play better defensive teams during the season. Kentucky has to get the edge on defense, holding teams to 10.2 fewer points than they averaged during the season.

Game: Kentucky is the better team and has better athletes, but the question is does Wofford have better shooters? How the Terriers handle Kentucky’s defense will be the deciding factor here, and Wofford does have one of the top 3-pointing teams around. If the Wildcats have a weakness, it’s 3-point defense, as they allowed teams to shoot 34.6% from long range, just .3% lower than their season average. For comparison, the Wildcats held teams to 5.1% lower shooting than they averaged on 2-pointers during the season.

Pick: Wofford +5.5

The Terriers have a shooter’s chance in this one and Wofford thinks nothing of putting it up from downtown nearly every time down the court. If they hit a few 3-pointers they can pull the Kentucky defense out a little bit, which should help open up the inside.

But one thing the Terriers have going for them is the belief they can beat Kentucky. Remember, the Wildcats lost to Seton Hall during the regular season and the Terriers have probably already  heard that a dozen times from the coaching staff.

Like most of the tournament games this one is a tough game to handicap, but this one could come down to the wire if Wofford shows up to play, but the Terriers will have to play a full game to keep it close against the Wildcats.

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