It might be hard to remember how close Billy Donovan was supposedly to Kentucky. His practice of answering and listening eventually led to rampant rumors that he was packing his bags for the Bluegrass last March. Ryan Ferguson waded into the muck to breakdown the rumors.
With late-breaking news on Monday night -- still coming from unsubstantiated sources, mind you -- indicating that via a bizarre media screw-up, details of Donovan's pending contract with Kentucky were either accidentally or intentionally leaked, it is starting to feel as though there must be something to the rumor.
Of course, Donovan was only guilty of failing to articulate his rejection of Kentucky, choosing instead to focus on the Final Four. Maybe there was behind the scenes action, but like the hiring process behind Urban Meyer, we may never know the truth.
(I didn't freak out until Billy went to Orlando.)
That is one subplot in today's game. The other is the rebuilding of the SEC's two premier programs. Florida chose to bring the kids along slowly, playing Georgia Southern and Tennessee Tech. Kentucky went the other way playing UNC, Indiana, and at Houston. As Gator fans, we look at `Kentucky 7-8' and lick our chops. But is a tested team a better team? If UK wins tonight, it could confirm that the early season gauntlet was exactly what the young Wildcats needed.
In terms of the matchup, the stats are not close at all, but the skill sets are about equal. (Our friends at A Sea Of Blue break this down masterfully.) Patrick Patterson has played very well but struggled last time out at Mississippi State (4-11, 10pts, 3 rebounds). On the flip side is Mareese Speights who at this point seems to be all potential after four points in 17 minutes at Ole Miss. This game could be won in the backcourt with UK seniors Ramel Bradley (15.7ppg) and Joe Crawford (16.4ppg) matching up with Hodge and Lucas. Crawford can play at the arc or in the paint so it will be interesting to see how he is defended. You may see Parsons or Calathes rotate on him.
I think UF can win because of the home court advantage. The pressure is on UK though because Florida has won six straight in the series and another loss to a top of the table opponent would spell trouble for the Wildcats' NCAA hopes. If Florida loses, they still have those out-of-conference wins in their back pocket. Winning though gives the Gators a signature win.