A complete downward spiral appears to have knocked Florida Gators basketball out of the 2016 NCAA Tournament – at least for now. An upset home victory Tuesday night over the rival Kentucky Wildcats would seemingly put UF right back in the mix, though that’s likely asking a lot for a floundering team with three-straight losses.
Here’s a look ahead at the game: what to know and how to watch Florida-Kentucky.
Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center – Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 11,548]
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
Tale of the tape
|Florida Gators||No. 19/22 Kentucky Wildcats|
|Head Coach: Mike White||Head Coach: John Calipari|
|Record: 17-12 (8-8 SEC)||Record: 21-8 (11-5 SEC)|
|Conference: Southeastern||Conference: Southeastern|
Spread: Florida +4.5 | O/U: 141
The Wildcats proved earlier this season that they’re the more talented team. Not only that, they match-up well against the Gators and present size issues that Florida simply cannot manage. The only thing the hosts truly have going for them are Senior Night and their final game in the O’Dome … but that will likely only count for so much.
Kentucky has proven it can be vulnerable, especially on the road, but Florida is also playing sloppy and not listening to its coach, which has resulted in bad shots, wasted possessions and inconsistent defense – a former Gators staple.
If UK can cover six by 13 points in Lexington, Kentucky, it most certainly can cover five in Gainesville. Plus, the Wildcats have won their last four against the Gators by an average of 16.3 points per game. And in the last men’s basketball game in the O’Dome, expect to see plenty of points in this one, too.
ATS picks: 6-3 | O/U picks: 6-3
Injuries and absences
» Out: F Alex Murphy (foot)
» Questionable: F Derek Willis (ankle)
See ya later, alligator
Tuesday night’s game will be the final men’s basketball contest played in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center before its massive $64.5 million renovation, which is expected to conclude in Dec. 2016. Florida has played its last 36 seasons in the O’Dome dating back to 1980.
Ahead of the Kentucky game will be Senior Night for the Gators with two players (likely) suiting up for the last time in front of their home fans.
» Dorian Finney-Smith: The redshirt senior forward has been the straw that’s stirred Florida’s drink for the last two seasons. A transfer from Virginia Tech, Finney-Smith has led Gators in scoring and rebounding each of the last two seasons, raising his game with 14.9 points and 8.3 boards per game over the 2015-16 campaign. The 2014 SEC Sixth Man of the Year, Finney-Smith was voted to the All-SEC second team in 2015 and is likely headed for more honors this season. He is currently 42nd on UF’s all-time scoring list but has the ability to move up multiple spots before the year is out, and he’s had the third most games with 20+ points and 8+ rebounds in a single season with five thus far in 2015-16.
» Alex Murphy: A midseason transfer who joined Florida during the 2013-14 campaign and has been injured throughout the 2015-16 season, Murphy has only played half of a season with the Gators. As a redshirt senior forward, his eligibility has technically expired, though he is expected to at least request a waiver to return to the team next season. Should he not be granted the waiver, he will be remembered for acting as a spark plug in Billy Donovan’s final season, scoring 5.1 points per game in 23 contests. The brother of former Florida star Erik Murphy, Alex is the second of three brothers, and UF certainly hopes to continue the tradition with the youngest Murphy, a four-star 2017 prospect
» Kentucky owns the all-time series against Florida with a 98-37 record over its rival, though the Gators became much more competitive under Billy Donovan with the Wildcats holding a been more competitive under Donovan with the Wildcats holding a 28-17 edge since the start of his tenure.
» UF’s had more success against UK in the O’Dome, going 24-34 in Gainesville and 8-3 since 2005.
» Florida is looking to avoid a sweep at the hands of Kentucky for the second-straight season, which would mark the first time that’s happened for UF against its bitter SEC rival since 2002-04. UK has won by an average of 16.3 points in the last four meetings.
» The Gators have put forward eight different starting lineups in 29 games this season. Their most frequent starting five has only played together nine times.
» Florida is hoping to avoid a four-game losing streak for the second consecutive season. UF lost just three games total during the 2013-14 campaign.
» The Gators are 1-5 against AP Top 25 opponents this season.