For the second week in a row, the Kentucky Wildcats will be the centerpiece of ESPN’s College Gameday as they head to Gainesville for a matchup against Mike White’s surging Florida Gators.
The Gators are 17-5 at the moment, coming off of three straight games in which they won by an average of 35 points per-game. The competition hasn’t been great though, as Florida has taken down LSU, Oklahoma at their gym, and Missouri. All three of those teams are near the bottom of their conferences and they won’t be making the NCAA tournament or possibly even the NIT.
Nevertheless, White’s team will present a formidable opponent that is ranked in the top 25 and a team that has had some success against John Calipari in the past. Cal is 4-3 at Florida since he has been the coach at Kentucky.
The Gators have more marquee losses than wins, both the ‘Cats and the Gators have this in common. Gonzaga, Duke, Florida State, and South Carolina have all defeated Florida. They even dropped a clunker at home to Vanderbilt. Their biggest win was against Arkansas, a team that right now figures to be in the NCAA tournament.
These two teams have a lot in common. Like Florida, Kentucky has blown some big opportunities at marquee wins against UCLA, Louisville, and Kansas. They too dropped a clunker in SEC play against Tennessee. But the Wildcats do have wins over North Carolina, South Carolina and Michigan State, which is a team that is firmly on the bubble. Their tournament resume is in better shape than Florida’s at the moment.
This is a key game for Kentucky as they have been slumping lately and the team is in poor health. De’Aaron Fox has been battling an ankle injury and an illness as well. Mychal Mulder hasn’t played in weeks due to an illness. Both guys may go on Saturday, but one has to wonder how effective they will be. Sacha Killeya-Jones doesn’t figure to play because he is also sick.
UK showed toughness and grit after falling behind 19-5 at home vs. the Georgia Bulldogs last Saturday. But it took a Herculean effort from both Malik Monk and Isaiah Briscoe to overcome that deficit and win in overtime. Neither player has been very good in true road games outside of Briscoe ringing up a triple-double at Ole Miss.
This team is going to need contributions from Derek Willis, Wenyen Gabriel, Dominique Hawkins and Issac Humphries if they want to win. Each one of those players have had breakout games, but each one of those players have failed to produce anything more than once.
Make no mistake, Florida has a good roster and Kentucky is going to need high level play from more than just two players to win. Kasey Hill, KeVaughn Allen, John Egbunu, and Canyon Barry can all hurt Kentucky.
Both teams need this win in a big way. It would be Florida’s first quality win and it would be a chance for Kentucky to lock up no worse than a two seed in the NCAA tournament.
Which Kentucky team will show up to Gainesville? The one that is the current favorite to win the national title, or the one that lost to Tennessee on the road?