No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 15 Northern Kentucky Prediction, Game Preview

Kentucky vs. Northern Kentucky prediction and game preview, as the No. 2 Wildcats and No. 15 Norse face off in the NCAA Tournament.

The city of Indianapolis will be painted blue as the Kentucky Wildcats and Big Blue Nation take over. Their opponent? Northern Kentucky, who has made the NCAA Tournament for the first time, and the first time they were eligible to. It will be a Commonwealth State matchup as the Wildcats and Norse battle.

Kentucky vs. Northern Kentucky Game Preview

Date: Friday, March 17
Venue:  Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, IN

Kentucky Strengths

There are few backcourts as athletic and dynamic as Kentucky’s. Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox can create with the basketball in their hands, and we’ve all seen the kind of scoring potential Monk has when he catches fire. With Isaiah Briscoe providing some depth, the Kentucky guards can light it up in a hurry. They get to the foul line early and often, which impacts the pace of the game.

Kentucky Weaknesses

We know what can happen if Monk and Fox go cold from the field. The Wildcats are streaky, and if their star freshmen start drawing iron, that opens the door for opponents to get out and run. Kentucky is a little top-heavy when it comes to Fox and Monk. If the opposition forces someone else to step up and create, we have no idea which Wildcat will answer the call on a given night.

Kentucky In-Depth Analysis

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Northern Kentucky Strengths

The Norse have a solid inside-out game with Drew McDonald – a 6-foot-7 center – and Lavone Holland II. McDonald not only posted 11 double-doubles as NKU’s leading scorer and rebounder, but he stepped outside and hit the 3 at a 38 percent clip. The 6-foot-1 Holland, a sophomore like McDonald, scored 20 points in the Horizon League championship game to help Northern Kentucky qualify for the NCAA Tournament in its first season of eligibility after moving up from the Division II level. The Norse are 24-10 after going 9-21 last season and led the Horizon in field goal percentage while also posting a plus-4.6 rebound differential per game despite a small starting five.

Northern Kentucky Weaknesses

NKU’s free throw shooting has been inconsistent. It ranked seventh in the 10-team Horizon with a 67.6 percentage from the line and nearly lost in the first round of the conference tournament in part because it went 17 of 29 from the charity stripe.

Northern Kentucky In-Depth Analysis

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Kentucky vs. Northern Kentucky By The Numbers

Kentucky Statistics

  • Scoring Margin – 14.7 (8th Nationally)
  • Rebound Margin – 5.7 (29)
  • TO Margin – 2.8 (30)
  • 3PT FG – 35.3% (163)

Northern Kentucky Statistics

  • Scoring Margin – 4.7 (101)
  • Rebound Margin – 4.6 (49)
  • TO Margin –  -1.3 (263)
  • 3PT FG – 35.3% (162)

Kentucky vs. Northern Kentucky Prediction

For many of the Norse, this game will be a dream come true, as they are playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time against the powerful Wildcats. They will be amped, and will come out with a spark, but this Kentucky team is way too good to be upset. Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox will take over and make this a blowout.

Kentucky vs. Northern Kentucky Score Prediction: Kentucky 104, Northern Kentucky 69

MORE: Complete NCAA Tournament Bracket, Previews, Predictions