The Florida Gators have been doing their best to challenge the supremacy of the Kentucky Wildcats in the SEC for over a decade. It all started in 2000 when the Gators made the Final Four, a first for Billy Donovan as a head coach and only their second as a program. They then went on to win back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007. Donovan's squad was definitely the team of the new millennium. They were doing things that Kentucky hadn't done since 1996, 1997, and 1998.
In response, the Wildcats changed coaches twice and eventually vaulted back to prominence. John Calipari put the ‘Cats back on the map with a Final Four and a national title. It was assumed that the days of the Gators being on par with Kentucky in the SEC were over: we all know what happens with assumptions.
Florida just wrapped up their second regular season title in two years and they are looking to go through the SEC unscathed, something only the Wildcats have ever done. Ironically, those same Wildcats are the only team left to stop Patric Young and company from redefining the history of the SEC.
But the game on Saturday is about more than just protecting Kentucky's place atop the SEC mountain-Florida still has a ways to ascend if they ever want to get there- the final meeting of the regular season between the two conference powerhouses is about the ‘Cats proving that they are better than what they have shown recently.
A once promising team now clings desperately onto a spot in the top 25. The former number one team in the country was defeated by South Carolina on the road and struggled to beat a bad Alabama team at home. The once proclaimed "Greatest Recruiting Class of All Time" is experiencing the pressures and difficulties that come with being a college athlete, undercutting their talent to some degree. John Calipari is battling detractors in the media and in his own fan base, people questioning his methods and even his coaching ability.
The narrative isn't positive right now, but the story can be changed on Saturday.
Playing the #1 team in the country in their own gym in the final game of the regular season presents the Wildcats with a golden opportunity to not only silence their critics, but to prove to themselves that they are as good as advertised. Aaron Harrison stated after the devastating loss to the Gamecocks that his team will come back and provide a story for the ages:
Because we know what we can do. We know, we talk about it. Even after the game, we just, we know what we can do and we know we're going to make a run to have a big, great story for everyone to talk about.
Talk is cheap, now is the time to act.
Kentucky won't get many more opportunities to prove themselves to the selection committee after Saturday. Yes, the SEC tournament is on the horizon, but outside of actually making the championship game, there isn't much they can do to improve their stock.
Florida is the golden opportunity that this team needs to instill belief in others and in their own team. Not only will Kentucky make a firm statement with a win, but they will stop Florida from taking another step up the mountain.
At high noon on Saturday, the Wildcats better come out with guns blazing. The time for moral victories is at an end. It's time to win.