If there is one bit of injury drama that towers over all others in this NCAA Tournament, it involves that of PJ Washington, the best player for this year’s Kentucky Wildcats. And as we approach Friday night’s Sweet Sixteen game against the Houston Cougars and their strangling defense, his status is still very much up in the air, which will impact some of the things John Calipari’s team can do on offense. Game time is 9:57 PM ET at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. And remember that you can place wagers while the action is in progress with Live Betting Ultra at VietBet.
2019 NCAAB Tournament Odds – Houston Cougars vs Kentucky Wildcats:
In the 2019 NCAAB Tournament Odds that have been established on this game by the people at VietBet, Kentucky is laying points:
Kentucky Wildcats -3
Houston Cougars +3
Over 134.5 points -110
Under 134.5 points -110
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2019 NCAAB Tournament Odds – CJ’s Take on Houston Cougars vs Kentucky Wildcats Sweet 16 Showdown:
Washington hurt his foot in the SEC Tournament and has sat out since. He had his cast removed, and the rumor was that he might be available for Friday night’s game, but Calipari would not commit to that, instead saying that he was “day to day.” He was last seen in a walking boot and was not practicing.
Washington, who has season highs of 29 points and 18 rebounds, is an unusual presence in this Kentucky program that is dominated by the “one and done” types, in that he is a sophomore. As such, he is a team leader. Not that the ‘Cats don’t have plenty of talent without him, but they do lose offensive options, which is hazardous against an opponent like Houston, which has won 33 games on the basis of defense.
The Cougars have allowed their foes to shoot just 36% from the field this season, and that is best in the nation. Ideally, a team that can score in bunches from various parts of the floor can pose a big challenge for them. But is Kentucky that kind of team?
We may have misspoken a little; the Wildcats have a senior presence in Reid Travis, the 6-8 forward who transferred over form Stanford, and they are going to need for him to produce against a Houston team that can shut it down, whether it is from the three-point arc (27.8% allowed) or two-point territory (42.7%). They are coaches smartly by Kelvin Sampson, who has been the subject of some controversy in his career but has also brought four different teams into the Big Dance. Here, he may have his tightest defensive team ever.
They also know how to “complete” their defensive possessions as well, because they are a good rebounding team, with a +7.3 margin, which ranks in the nation’s top ten.
The two guards figure very prominently into their offense; Corey Davis had 21 points against Ohio State last weekend, and he and Armoni Brooks combined for each one of the team’s five triples. Davis and Brooks are around 38% from three-point range, so this is the area where they are going to try and stretch out Kentucky’s defensive setup.
What worries us about the Wildcats, especially as it is likely that Washington will be either absent or severely limited, is that they had life-and-death with Wofford in the Round of 32 (trailing much of the way and winning by only six) while at the same time holding Fletcher Magee to 0-for-12 from downtown. That kind of thing is not going to happen every day. This is one of the youngest teams in the nation; we appreciate the job that Calipari does year in and year out bringing them together, but is this a special enough group to go deeper in this tournament?
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