Well, ladies and gentlemen of the Big Blue Nation, this was the date we've all had circled on our calendars ever since 2014 began. The SEC has precious few opportunities for a team to improve their national standing this season, and the Florida Gators have obligiingly won all but 2 of their games this season, and every SEC game so far. Thus, we find ourselves with a rare opportunity to excel and raise our national profile back into the top ten as the #14 Kentucky Wildcats welcome the #3 Florida Gators to Rupp Arena.
- Location: Gainesville, Florida
- Conference: SEC
- Head Coach: Billy Donovan (Since 1996)
- NCAA Appearances: 18
- Most recent NCAA appearance: 2013
- Most recent NCAA win: 2013
- Founded: 1853
- Enrollment: 30,070
- Last season's record 29-8 overall, 14-4 in conference
Source: Basketball State
Season so far for Florida:
- Season record: 22-2 (11-0 SEC)
Florida's season has been outstanding so far. They have quality wins against Florida St.,Kansas, Memphis, at Tennessee, at Arkansas, and versus Missouri.
The Gators have lost two games, one to Wisconsin in Madison, and one at Connecticut in Storrs. Every one of their quality wins have been close except for Tennessee and Missouri, and their losses have come by a total of 7 points.
Kentucky and Florida have played 128 times before today with Kentucky winning 94 (73%). Florida had one of the great runs of success by any SEC team between 2005 and 2008, when the Gators won seven of the nine games in that span, and went on a 7-game winning streak against the Wildcats, the longest consecutive streak of wins by any SEC team in history.
In the 12 games since 2008, Kentucky has returned to their historic dominance, winning 9 of the 12 games contested, including six out of the last seven.
|Rank and Records||UF||UK|
|Strength of Schedule||#42||#13|
|RPI Top 50||6-2||3-2|
Courtesy of Statsheet.com
Florida Roster and Analysis
|5||Wilbekin, Scottie||S**||G||6-2||176||Sr.||Gainesville, FL||19||13.0||2.8||3.8|
|20||Frazier II, Michael||S*||G||6-4||199||So.||Tampa, FL||24||12.6||3.4||1.0|
|4||Young, Patric||S**||C||6-9||249||Sr.||Jacksonville, FL||24||10.5||6.4||0.9|
|24||Prather, Casey||S*||F||6-6||212||Sr.||Jackson, TN||22||15.3||5.3||1.6|
|0||Hill, Kasey||MR||G||6-1||181||Fr.||Eustis, FL||20||5.9||1.8||3.2|
|10||Finney-Smith, Dorian||MR+||F||6-8||212||So.||Portsmouth, VA||22||9.4||7.5||2.0|
|25||Walker, DeVon||MR*||G||6-6||195||So.||Winter Haven, FL||21||2.7||1.4||0.6|
|23||Walker, Chris||R||F||6-10||220||Fr.||Bonifay, FL||3||2.7||2.0||0.0|
|30||Kurtz, Jacob||R*||F||6-6||210||Jr.||Oviedo, FL||19||2.1||1.9||0.3|
|11||Edwards, Lexx||R&||G||6-2||225||So.||Orlando, FL||8||0.0||0.2||0.0|
|42||Donovan, Billy||R+&||G||6-2||195||Jr.||Gainesville, FL||12||0.3||0.2||0.2|
|1||Carter, Eli||RS-||G||6-2||200||Jr.||Paterson, NJ||7||0.4||0.7||0.3|
|31||Murphy, Alex||RS-||F||6-8||220||So.||Wakefield, RI|
|12||Graham, Dillon||R*-||G||6-4||186||So.||Orlando, FL||1||0.0||0.0||0.0|
|RS||Redshirt This Season|
|+||Redshirt Last Season|
|-||Out for season|
Courtesy of Basketball State
Florida Team Notes
- Florida is a good, but not great, rebounding team. Kentucky is a great one.
- Florida is just an average ballhandling team, turning it over 18% of possessions.
- Florida produces almost 22% turnovers, 22nd in the country.
- Florida has been outstanding on defense, and outstanding shooting the ball inside the arc in the SEC schedule.
- The Gators lead the conference in avoiding blocks.
- Despite the reputation of Michael Frazier II, the Gators are only 9th in 3-point percent in the SEC.
- Florida plays outstanding defense inside the paint.
Florida Player notes
Casey Prather is arguably the most improved player in the conference, maybe in the nation. He leads the Gators in scoring, is second in rebounding, and is one of the most efficient scorers in the land.
Dorian Finney-Smith is Florida's best rebounder, but he is also foul-prone.
Michael Frazier is shooting 43% from the arc. Wilbekin is no slouch at 38%
Patric Young is the enforcer in the middle, but he is not an efficient scorer despite getting most of his looks from deep in the paint. He is also very foul-prone.
Will Yeguette is the classic glue-guy. He doesn't do anything spectacularly, but does almost everything well.
- Reserve guard Dillon Graham is out for the season with a hip injury.
- Scottie Wilbekin vs. Andrew Harrison — There are many intriguing matchups in this game, including this one. Wilbekin is cagey and experienced, Harrison is younger, bigger, and probably more talented. Wilbekin will struggle with Harrison's size, and Harrison has had difficulty guarding smaller, quicker players
- Michael Frazier II vs. Aaron Harrison — Another great matchup. Frazier is a great shooter that Harrison will have to relentlessly shadow. Aaron is bigger, stronger, and only a year younger than Frazier. These two are likely to offset each other for most of the game.
- Casey Prather vs. James Young — Young has been great for most of this year, but lately he's been more tentative, taking shots from the outside and not mixing it up as much as earlier in the year. If the early-season Young shows up for this team, this is an even matchup both in size and ability. If the Young of the last two games shows up, Prather has the advantage.
- Will Yeguette vs. Julius Randle — If left isolated one-on-one, Randle is too much for Yeguette to handle because of his superior size. That's going to force Florida into a zone or double-team, and while that's generally an advantage, Kentucky has struggled to exploit it recently when teams do that.
- Patric Young vs. Dakari Johnson — Young is big and strong, but Johnson still has 20 lbs. and 3 inches on him. Fortunately for Young, he is also a senior and that experience will make a difference.
Florida and Kentucky both have deep, strong benches. Dorian Finney-Smith, Kasey Hill and DeVon Walker give the Gators plenty of quality depth. Chris Walker, although playing sparingly this season, gives them size and athleticism. Kentucky has similar with experience in Jarrod Polson, size in Willie Cauley-Stein, and athleticism and rebounding in Alex Poythress.
If you look at the Four Factors above, you'll see why this game provides so much to look forward to. Both teams have talent, athleticism and depth. Kentucky has maybe more talent, but the Gators have more experience. This ends up being an even game on paper, even though Kentucky enjoys significant advantages getting to the line and rebounding the ball.
This game really boils down to one thing for Kentucky — effort. If the effort shows up from every spot, the Gators will have difficulty handling the Wildcats in Rupp Arena. Transition defense, ballhandling, and getting good shots close to the basket provide the essential areas for Kentucky's success. If Kentucky gets back, takes the ball to the basket, and takes care of the ball against the Florida press, I think Wildcats fans will find the game going just to their liking.
Kentucky's half court defense has been sound all year, particularly against the better teams they have played. Where they tend to struggle against good teams is in transition, taking care of the ball, and getting good shots off. Florida will use all sorts of defenses against Kentucky as Billy Donovan tends to be really multiple in his defensive looks.
The Wildcats must also produce their best effort of the season guarding the pick-and-roll. Florida loves to run the pick-and-roll, particularly from the sides, and Kentucky has to be very aggressive and intense in defending it to prevent layups and open threes. Florida is a good but not great offensive team, but when they hit on all cylinders, they're really tough.
Florida defends better than any other team in the league, hands down. They take pride in their defense, they communicate and help each other. The Gators represent the biggest defensive challenge Kentucky has faced all season, and if the Wildcats can score consistently on Florida, they can score on anybody. The Gators, on the other hand, have not faced a team with anything like the offensive firepower of Kentucky since the Kansas game back on December 10th. How well they can guard will inform the Gators success, not so much their scoring.
This game provides Kentucky with a rare opportunity to take down a top five team, and to do so in the comfy confines of Rupp Arena. If Kentucky doesn't take advantage and drops this game to the Gators, it will have a significant negative impact on their seeding even if they avenge the loss in Gainesville. The national perception would then be "desperate Kentucky, indifferent Gators," so today's game means a lot.
Hopefully, the Wildcats are up to the task.