Looking to bounce back after watching its nine-game winning streak come to an end, No. 12 Florida Gators basketball celebrates Senior Night on Wednesday evening when it hosts the Arkansas Razorbacks. Here’s what you need to know and how you can watch Gators-Hogs.
Location: Stephen C. O’Connell Center — Gainesville, Florida [Capacity: 10,151]
Time: 7 p.m. EST
TV: ESPN2 (Joe Tessitore, Sean Farnham)
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
|No. 12 Florida Gators||Arkansas Razorbacks|
|Head Coach||Mike White||Mike Anderson|
|Record||23-6 (13-3 SEC)||22-7 (11-5 SEC)|
1. Say goodbye: Not only will the Florida crowd be seeing the basketball team for the last time this season in its home finale, it will also be watching at least four players suit up for the last time in the O’Dome. Whether there are other surprise departures aside from those four remains to be seen, though junior forward Devin Robinson inquired about moving on to the professional ranks a year ago.
2. Bounce back necessary: Falling to Kentucky on Saturday was not the end of the world for Florida, but if it wants to hold on to a No. 3-4 seed in the NCAA Tournament and play its opening-round games in nearby Orlando, UF needs to close strong down the stretch. The Razorbacks, which the Gators beat by nine in Fayetteville, Arkansas, to open SEC play, presents an ample opportunity to beat a quality opponent. This is especially important with a surging Vanderbilt looming in a road game that will serve as Florida’s SEC finale.
3. Finding some post presence: It is nearly impossible for the Gators to replace redshirt junior starting center John Egbunu, but they can do better in making up for his lost production than they did against the Wildcats. The road environment and uneven officiating certainly hurt Florida, but so did it getting absolutely crushed in the paint and on the boards. Arkansas is another tough team that UF cannot shy away from when battling for the ball, particularly late in the game.
Spread: Florida -11 | O/U: 154
The Hogs are riding a five-game win streak into Gainesville and shooting the bell as well as they have all season. After a rough start to the SEC slate, they are now tied for third in the conference and have the NCAA Tournament in their sights. The Gators, meanwhile, recently saw their nine-game winning streak come to an end and have already locked up a tourney appearance, though an outside shot at an SEC title and SEC Tournament seeding remain on the line.
Though Florida should win this game and perform better defensively than it did at Kentucky, taking the points is the play. The Razorbacks have a propensity for getting to the line and have averaged 84.8 points per game during their win streak. Still, the Gators hold opponents below their season scoring average rather consistently, and this one should fall under as an 83-72 score is what’s being projected here with this spread and over/under.
2016 records: ATS picks 3-1 | O/U picks 3-1
Point guard Kasey Hill: The only one of Florida’s four seniors who actually played four years with the program, Hill joined the Gators as a five-star recruit and one of the top players in the nation. He is currently second in program history in assists (508) and is the second player with that many dimes to go along with 1,000 points (Erving Walker). Hill ranks sixth at UF all-time in steaks (174, four short of fourth) and is just outside the top-10 all-time in career games played (130). He is also one steal away from becoming the sixth player in SEC history to reach 1,000 points, 500 assists and 175 steals in his career. Though inconsistency has plagued his time at Florida, Hill has been one of the few steady personnel presences for the program over the past four seasons, starting every game in the 2016-17 campaign and most of the ones in which he played over the three prior years.
Forward Justin Leon: White’s first uncommitted recruit to Florida, Leon followed the Gators’ coach to his new stop as the player had originally decided to transfer from JUCO to Louisiana Tech. Leon was a spot-starter during his first season in 2015-16 but eventually moved into a more consistent role and proved to be another high-energy, maximum-effort contributor in the style of a Will Yeguete. He’s netted 39 percent of his threes over the last couple of seasons and started every game of the 2016-17 campaign. His two years will have gone by quite fast, and UF will miss him when he leaves.
Guard Canyon Barry: A graduate transfer from College of Charleston, Barry has not started a single game this season but nonetheless made his presence felt as Florida’s second-leading scorer. Barry is shooting nearly 35 percent from beyond the arc and posting 12.3 points in 21.7 minutes. He’s also hitting a team-best 90 percent of his free throws — underhanded like his father, of course. Barry was one of this past offseason’s most prized transfers, and he’s proven his worth for the Gators, helping lead the team to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in three years.
Center Schuyler Rimmer: A former Florida commit under Billy Donovan, Rimmer ultimately decided to go to Stanford. As fate would have it, not playing many minutes with the Cardinal led Rimmer to look for a new home, and he decided to walk on with the Gators last season. Though he’s only averaged six minutes and about one point and one rebound per game through two seasons, Rimmer is being counted on now more than ever with Florida’s starting center out for the rest of the year.
» Probable: G Canyon Barry, F Keith Stone, F/C Gorjok Gak
» Out for season: C John Egbunu
» Florida is 20-11 all-time against Arkansas, including 11-2 in the O’Dome and 3-0 under White. The Gators beat the Hogs 81-72 back on Dec. 29 to open the SEC slate.
» UF is 1-4 against AP Top 25 teams this season and 2-11 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.
» Florida’s nine-game winning streak was its longest since winning 30 in a row during the 2013-14 campaign.
» Auburn is the only team this season that has reached or eclipsed its scoring average during regulation against UF. That occurred in a game in which the Gators set a program scoring mark with 114 points.