Kentucky Wildcats vs. UCLA Bruins
Date and Time: Friday, March 24, 2017, 9:39 p.m. ET
Location: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Sweet 16 Odds: Kentucky -1.5, O/U 169.5
Kentucky vs. UCLA TV Coverage: CBS
When Kentucky Has the Ball…
Freddie Coleman used to have a late night ESPN Radio show, and he had a segment for years called "Tonight is Your Night Bro."
Tonight is your night, Malik Monk.
The onslaught of the 6-foot-3 future Top 5 pick in the NBA Draft… It's possible any given night for the Wildcats. There's a reason why Monk averaged right at 20 points per game this season, and there's a reason why he put up 24 with another surefire Top 5 pick, Lonzo Ball staring him in the first for much of that game in Lexington back in December. Monk is a baller in every sense of the word, and somewhere along the way, it's just going to be obviously that he has to take this game over unlikely when he scored 14 against Wichita State or 12 against Northern Kentucky to open up the first week of the dance.
UK can have some success out of its bigs too, as Edrice Adebayo, De'Aaron Fox and Derek Willis combined to score 49 points in December in this game against an undersized team, but in spite of all of that length on the court, it's going to come back to guard play to determine if the Wildcats can really keep up with a team that will run, run and run some more over the course of the 40 ( or more? ) minutes.
When UCLA Has the Ball…
The biggest concern we have for the Bruins is that Ball might try to do too much when faced with the prospects of matching wits with his biggest collegiate adversary. Monk finished that first game with five steals, and Ball turned the rock over a total of six times. So yet, Ball had 14 points and was a crucial part of that upset, but he also goes cold and missing from time to time. That said, here in the NCAAs, even though he has put up pretty good, yet not spectacular numbers, he only has a total of two turnovers, and that's going to be his key in this game.
For all of their running, the Bruins only turn the ball over 11.1 times per game. That’s going to be a big factor as Kentucky tries to limit the amount of time UCLA is on the ball to avoid getting into that same sort of tit-for-tat game that broke out in Lexington in December. The Wildcats are going to need to show some spunk defensively as they did against Wichita State in crucial moments to get to the Elite Eight.
The X Factor
There are plenty of reasons to believe that the crowd would have anything to do with this game. After all, if the Bruins can go into Rupp Arena and score the most points any visitor has ever put up in a game in that storied venue, surely, they can deal with Memphis, right? But there's something to be said about the fact that this is an NBA gym that could be problematic for the Bruins. They shouldn't feel like they're going on the road, but if we're being honest, this region was made for UK with as close as Memphis is to Lexington.
Still, the counter to that is that the Bruins are now the favorites in this game at -1 after opening up at +1.5, and that means that somebody thinks they know something about the outcome of this one. The oddsmakers are rarely horribly wrong this time of year, and it should be noted that Steve Alford's team has consistently been a bigger favorite on the National Championship odds than John Calipari's.