As with all our repeat foes, we will simply be linking our previous extensive analysis of the game. Not much has changed since the last contest except for the loss of major reserve forward Will Yeguete to a broken foot, and since that injury, the Gators have been on a two-game slide with both losses coming on the road.
I remember a time not too long ago when Kentucky would have entered this game with great trepidation. During that time, the Gators had been dominating this series for several years, and was consistently getting better players in Gainesville than Kentucky was getting in Lexington. In retrospect, it was one of the most difficult times to remain positive about Kentucky's prospects that I can ever recall in my 40+ years of fandom.
But those days have gone bye-bye, for the most part. Kentucky enters the game today having won their last 21 straight games, long since sealed the SEC regular season championship and the top seed in the 2012 SEC tournament and with a victory today, would see their first perfect SEC regular season since the Suffocats in 2003. There is very little motivation, other than perfection, for Kentucky to win this game. A loss here would not affect their #1 seeding in the NCAA tournament, so there is nothing other than just a game against a league foe on the line from the UK perspective.
For Florida, on the other hand, this game has a lot of implications. ESPN's Joe Lunardi currently has the Gators as a 5 seed and falling, which is definitely not a position to be coveted by the likes of Billy Donovan and the Gators. A win against Kentucky along with a deep run in the SEC Tournament could put Florida in a 3-seed, a much more desirable position.
Updated Florida statistics
|Will Yeguete (injured and unavailable)||26||21.9||1.9||3.3||58.1||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.5||1.5||35.9||2.3||4.0||6.3||1.0||0.7||1.2||0.4||2.4||4.4|
|Walter Pitchford V||11||1.5||0.2||0.7||25.0||0.0||0.1||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.0||0.1||0.2||0.3||0.1||0.1||0.0||0.1||0.5||0.4|
Florida: Will Yeguete -- broken foot
Kentucky is a terrible matchup for Florida in almost every conceivable way. The Wildcats are much bigger, especially in the back court, and are too long and talented for the small Florida team. Kentucky is able to stay at home on their 3-point shooters because their entire post presence is forward Patric Young, who, while extremely strong, athletic and talented, lacks a polished offensive game. He can score, but he does not bring the kind of offensive threat that a player like Festus Ezeli does for Vanderbilt.
The other front-court player for Florida, Erik Murphy, is more of a perimeter player and is not a strong rebounder or inside scorer. Freshman Cody Larson is the only other Florida player available over 6'6", and Larson is a rarely-used reserve averaging under six minutes per game.
Florida has no way to effectively defend the combination of Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones inside without zoning, because Florida's guards simply don't defend well enough to hold down the penetration of Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Defensively, Kentucky is capable of forcing the Gators into the two point area, and Florida is not a great mid-range shooting team. As we saw against the Georgia Bulldogs, zoning Kentucky is simply a recepie for disaster, and I don't see how Florida can avoid being forced into a zone to protect their bigs and avoid a lot of layups and dunks.
So is this a game that Florida cannot win? Almost, but there is always a way. Donovan can send all his guards at Anthony Davis and hope to pick up a couple of home calls and send him to the bench in the first half. Without Davis, the Wildcats have a much more difficult defensive problem against the Gators, and they would not be as able to stay at home on shooters, possibly getting some open looks for Florida's deadly shooting trio of Kenny Boynton, Earving Walker and Bradley Beal. If Kentucky gives the Gators open looks from three for whatever reason, this game is likely to be quite competitive and an upset is definitely possible.
But with Davis in the game, I cannot envision a scenario in which the Gators win without an epic collapse by Kentucky on both sides of the ball, which, while we haven't seen it yet, is always possible.