The Davidson Wildcats (21-11) have been on a fairly strong run since the calendar turned to 2018. Before winning the Atlantic 10 Championship, the Wildcats began the season with a (5-7) record. Since then, they have gone (16-4), becoming one of the intriguing picks to upset their first-round opponent.
However, the Kentucky Wildcats (24-10) are no slouch when it comes to turning a season around. The Wildcats started the season (11-2). For the most part, everything was rolling with the exception of a couple of games. All of a sudden, they hit a stretch where the SEC was taking shots at Big Blue. The Wildcats lost 8 of their 10 games after January, so it would seem like they aren’t playing at a high level. Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. They lost four straight games to begin February and those losses put the Wildcats squarely on the bubble. Looking back, all four of those losses came to NCAA Tournament teams. More importantly, the Wildcats bounced back to win 7 of their last 8 games, including a three game sweep in the SEC Tournament. Five of those wins came against teams in the tournament field. The only loss came to the Florida Gators in the regular season finale.
Therefore, both teams are coming into the NCAA Tournament with a hot streak. Davidson has a four-game winning streak that includes two wins over the Rhode Island Rams and another victory over the St. Bonaventure Bonnies. They have elite scoring at every level. However, the Davidson Wildcats played the best defense in the Atlantic 10, holding opponents to 64.5 points per game. As a result, they can outscore opponents and lock them down at the same time. Still, shooting will be a huge key to an upset victory.
Peyton Aldridge leads the Wildcats with 21.5 points per game. He is shooting over 39 percent from 3-point range. Fortunately, Aldridge is not a one-trick pony. He dominates opponents in the mid-range and paint and shoots over 54 percent inside the arc. He also leads the Wildcats with 7.8 rebounds per game. The biggest question is- can Aldridge get his shots off in the paint? Kentucky is No. 22 in blocked shots in college basketball. If they try to single cover Aldridge, there shouldn’t be a problem scoring.
Kellan Grady is the x-factor in the Round of 64. The freshman guard is pouring in 18 points per game. We know Kentucky is relying on a lot of freshman to survive and advance. The Davidson Wildcats will have no chance if Grady doesn’t perform up to his capabilities. He’s a deadeye 3-point shooter. However, Grady actually shoots lower than the team average at 39 percent. That means the Wildcats of Davidson are going to try to bombard the Kentucky Wildcats from the perimeter. In turn, that can open up even more space for Aldridge to work his magic.
In all, the Wildcats have three players scoring in double figures. They combine to shoot 16.5 3-pointers per game. More importantly, they all shoot 38 percent or better from the arc. However, there is one stat that cannot be overlooked. The Kentucky Wildcats have limited opponents to 30 percent from 3-point range. The 3-point line should be the game within a game.
Kentucky is a 5.5 point favorite over Davidson. That’s the second smallest margin of all of the 12 seed vs. 5 seed games. The West Virginia Mountaineers are the only double digit favorite in that seed line. They face the Murray State Racers.
Kentucky and Davidson tip-off at 7:10 p.m. in Boise. Therefore, this game is in the middle of primetime action. Both teams should be ready for a hotly contested game.