Looking to continue what has been extended to a nine-game winning streak, No. 13 Florida Gators basketball travels to Lexington, Kentucky, to take on the No. 11 Kentucky Wildcats in a bitter rivalry game. Here’s what you need to know and how you can watch Gators-Wildcats.
Location: Rupp Arena — Lexington, Kentucky [Capacity: 23,000]
Time: 2 p.m. EST
TV: CBS (Brad Nessler, Jim Spanarkel)
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
|No. 13 Florida Gators||No. 11 Kentucky Wildcats|
|Head Coach||Mike White||John Calipari|
|Record||23-5 (13-2 SEC)||23-5 (13-2 SEC)|
1. Rest for the weary: Unlike the last meeting, when Florida had a turnaround of less than 48 hours, the Gators have been off since Tuesday. Kentucky has been tested in its last two games, the most recent of which was Wednesday on the road at Missouri, but it returns home with revenge on its mind while hosting a hated rival.
2. Shorthanded beyond injuries: Redshirt freshman forward Keith Stone, who was on his way to becoming an important contributor off the bench for Florida this season, has really struggled since missing a couple games and returning from a viral infection that has simply taken him off his game. He scored and netted a basket for the first time in the month on Tuesday, but he’s not close to returning to be a reliable contributor. With an injury to a starter and a reserve, as well as a key contributor hobbled coming off the bench, the Gators are nowhere near full strength going up against an extremely talented opponent in the Wildcats.
3. Honors are coming: While you probably won’t find Florida’s players on any All-SEC or All-American first teams, White is going to get his fair share of honors after the regular season is out. He’s a mortal lock for SEC Coach of the Year regardless of Saturday’s result, and three more wins to close out the regular season may lock up national coach of the year honors, too. Florida’s on pace for a better season than the 1998-99, 2004-05 and 2012-13 campaigns … the seasons before Billy Donovan took the program to the Final Four (and/or beyond).
4. Title and seeds are on the line: UF and UK are likely playing for the 2016-17 SEC regular-season title on Saturday considering their identical record and remaining schedule. Also on the line is a No. 1 overall seed in the 2017 SEC Tournament, though the Gators and Wildcats have each already locked up double byes with their first games coming on Friday.
5. Keeping composure is key: It looks like senior point guard Kasey Hill will get the start Saturday, and if that’s the case, he must figure out a way to be more careful with the ball considering his 19 turnovers in the last four games. In fact, in the 17 games since Christmas week, Hill has only turned the ball over fewer than three times in three contests. One year ago at UK, Hill committed four turnovers in just 13 minutes as part of an awful performance that saw Florida trail by 19 points early in the first half and lose by the same margin. Composure is key at Rupp Arena, and it is up to the most experience players on the court to ensure the situation doesn’t get too big for their teammates.
Pick and analysis
Spread: Kentucky -3 | O/U: 155
It is my belief that Florida is the best team in the SEC this year, even with the season-ending injury to redshirt junior center John Egbunu. That may not manifest itself on Saturday, though, when the Gators take on the Wildcats in one of the nation’s toughest venues.
Consider that Florida will not only be without Egbunu but playing with a limited key scorer in graduate transfer guard Canyon Barry, who gritted through nine minutes of ineffective action against South Carolina on a bad ankle. Barry scored 14 points in the last meeting, while Egbunu had eights points and seven boards.
The Gators have only won 15 percent of the games they’ve played in Lexington over the years, while the Wildcats are 22-10 against the spread in their last 32 home games. Even if De’Aaron Fox is out — he’s a game-time decision like he was in the first meeting (he played) — Kentucky will still have the upper hand in the game. Plus, big man Bam Adebayo has developed well in the paint and should give sophomore C Kevarrius Hayes a tough time; early foul trouble could spell doom for the visitors.
Realize that my only incorrect pick of the season was choosing UK over UF last time around, so the confidence is low here, but the prediction is trending in Kentucky’s direction with it just squeaking over.
2016 records: ATS picks 2-1 | O/U picks 3-0
» Probable: G Canyon Barry, F Keith Stone
» Out: F/C Gorjok Gak
» Out for season: C John Egbunu
» Kentucky is 99-38 all-time against Florida with a 50-9 mark in Lexington. Just a couple weeks ago, the Gators broke a five-game losing streak to the Wildcats with a massive 22-point win.
» UF is 1-3 against AP Top 25 teams this season and 2-10 against such opponents under White. Florida is 42-9 against unranked opponents over the last two seasons.
» The Gators have only used two starting lineups all season with four of their five players starting every game to this point. However, nine different players have led UF in scoring through 28 games.
» Six of the 14 players on Florida’s roster were either not on the team or did not step on the court during the 2015-16 season.
» The Gators are 38-9 under White when scoring 70 points or more and 29-6 when giving up 69 points or fewer.