When John Calipari has had a special team, this is the time of the year when they've typically began playing great basketball.
He hopes that's the case with this year's Kentucky Wildcats as they look to end the regular season on a high note. It begins Tuesday night at Florida against a Gators desperately fighting to secure an NCAA Tournament berth.
There's no question who Florida's go-to guy is as senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith. He leads the team in points (14.9) and rebounds (8,3) per game. He's looking to end his career on a high note. Finney-Smith will play final game at the O’Connell Center Tuesday while ranking 42nd on the Gators' all-time scoring list (1,121 points) and needs two points to match Al Horford and 12 to tie Joakim Noah.
Finney-Smith’s five games with 20+ points and 8+ rebounds this season are the most by a Gator in a single season since Marreese Speights had seven such games in 2007-08. He was also key in the Gators' best win this season - a 88-71 win vs No. 9 West Virginia that saw DFS hit 5-of-7 3-pointers with 24 points with three dimes and five boards.
But the Gators are now in a bit of a slump, losing five of their past seven games and went from being a lock for the tourney to now being firmly on the bubble. The Gators are coming off a 96-91 loss at LSU defeated Florida, 96-91. Florida scored 62 points in the second half clawed back from an 18-point deficit to get within two points in the game’s final moments before ultimately falling.
That's made this game even more important for the Gators to win, and this should be another hard-fought road affair for the Cats that comes down to the final minutes. Here's everything you'll need to watch and follow it.
When: March 1, 2016
Location: O’Connell Center (11,548) in Gainesville, Fla.
Game Time: 7 p.m. ET
Announcers: Brad Nessler (PxP), Dick Vitale (Analyst) and Shannon Spake (Sideline) will call the action.
Online Stream: Watch ESPN
Radio: UK Radio Network with Tom Leach and Mike Pratt (info and affiliates)
Odds: Kentucky opened as a 2.5-point favorite, per Vegas Insider.
Projected UF Starters
#11 G - Chris Chiozza 6-0, 175 lbs, So.
#34 G - KeVaughn Allen, 6-2, 183 lbs, Fr.
#0 G - Kasey Hill, 6-2, 180 lbs, Jr.
#3 - F - Devin Robinson, 6-8, 195 lbs, So.
#10 F - Dorian Finney-Smith, 6-8, 220 lbs. Sr.
#15 F - John Egbunu, 6-11, 255 lbs, So.
Projected UK Starters
#3 G - Tyler Ulis, 5-9, 160 lbs, So.
#13 G - Isaiah Briscoe, 6-3, 202 lbs, Fr.
#23 G - Jamal Murray, 6-4, 207 lbs, Fr.
#22 F - Alex Poythress, 6-8, 230 lbs, Sr.
#15 F - Isaac Humphries, 7-0, 260 lbs, Fr.
#00 F - Marcus Lee, 6-9, 224 lbs
Prediction: This is the exact same scenario the Cats found themselves in Saturday: On the road playing a desperate team who needed a win to push themselves onto the positive side of the bubble.
The end result turned out ugly in Nashville, so will the same happen in Gainesville?
Thus far, the Cats have shown nothing to suggest they can beat a quality team on the road without Derek Willis in the lineup. In fact, they haven't won a road game this year in which Willis did not play.
While Kentucky 'needs' to win this game to keep their tournament resume intact, Florida 'must' win it just to make the Big Dance. That do-or-die mentality gives Florida the edge they need to win a close one in the Swamp.
Final Score: Florida 71, Kentucky 70