Fresh off a record-setting win, No. 25 Florida Gators basketball will once again play in the 2017 SEC-Big 12 Challenge, this time on the road when it faces the Oklahoma Sooners (and former Florida coach Lon Kruger) in Norman, Oklahoma.
Here’s what you need to know and how you can watch Gators-Sooners.
Event: SEC-Big 12 Challenge
Location: Lloyd Noble Center — Norman, Oklahoma [Capacity: 11,562]
Time: 2:00 p.m. EST
TV: ESPN (Brent Musburger, Dick Vitale, Kaylee Hartgung)
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
Tale of the tape
|No. 25 Florida Gators||Oklahoma Sooners|
|Head Coach||Mike White||Lon Kruger|
Three things to know
1. A can’t-lose game: This version of Oklahoma is simply not a good team. The Sooners are 132nd in RPI and 101st in adjusted offense (per KenPom.com). Considering it’s a true road game for Florida, there’s not much to gain, but there is a lot to lose for the Gators. Not only would they drop out of the top 25 with a loss on Saturday, Florida would suffer its second bad loss in as many weeks and third overall in a four-game stretch. With two games against Kentucky and showdowns with South Carolina and Vanderbilt standing as four of UF’s last 10 league games, Florida has no choice but to build on its momentum coming out of the dominant win over LSU. As such, this is not a must-win game per se, but it is a can’t-lose one.
2. Key contributor back? Graduate transfer guard Canyon Barry has spent most of the season coming off the bench, but that has not stopped him from being the Gators’ second-leading scorer. Barry, who missed the LSU game with a sprained ankle, is averaging 12.4 points per game despite not being that efficient from anywhere on the floor. Florida says Barry practiced on Thursday and Friday, which means there would likely need to be some setback in shootaround on Saturday for him to miss the game. Prior to Barry’s injury, Florida’s bench had led the team in scoring in three of four games, contests in which UF won.
3. Experience should help: With Florida spending its entire nonconference slate away from home, the Gators have been tested in difficult venues more than most teams in the nation entering Saturday. In fact, they have the No. 1 nonconference schedule in the nation (No. 5 overall), which should bode well for a test against a team that may be underwhelming but has a coach that can get his guys up to play to tough competition.
Pick and analysis
Spread: Florida -2 | O/U: 149
The Gators are the better offensive team. They are the better defensive team. They have been performed better against their most difficult opponents. In fact, the only thing the Sooners have on their side is that they’ve played higher-rated teams (in terms of KenPom.com stats) and have a much faster tempo than the visitors on Saturday. What gives me some pause in screaming for an easy Florida pick is the fact that the team has been on the road a full week — literally, it did not go back to campus after beating LSU mid-week — which could be draining. However, head coach Mike White has shown an ability to keep his guys focused, and if the way they responded earlier this week is any indication, there should be plenty of motivation for UF to go into its final stretch of the regular season with consecutive road wins. And while I usually don’t like overs beyond the mid-140s, let’s take the over here.
2016 records: ATS picks 1-0 | O/U picks 1-0
» Florida is 1-0 against Oklahoma with Kruger leading the Gators to victory over the Sooners in 1995.
» UF is 2-1 all-time in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge with two home victories and a road loss in the event.
» The Gators have only used two starting lineups all season with four of their five players starting every game to this point. However, seven different players have led Florida in scoring through 20 games.
» Six of the 14 players on UF’s roster were either not on the team or did not step on the court during the 2015-16 season.
» The Gators are 31-9 under White when scoring 70 points or more and 22-6 when giving up 69 points or fewer.
» Florida is 1-11 under White against AP Top 25-ranked teams and 35-9 against unranked opponents.