The Gators will secure their first NCAA bid since 2007 with a victory tonight over Mississippi State. But it will be a struggle as the teams are very similar to each other. The only reason why UF is inside of the bubble and Miss State is on the outside is UF's tougher out-of-conference schedule.
The Gators (21-11) score and allow nearly the same amount of points as Mississippi State (21-10). However, Miss State has a huge advantage in forward Jarvis Varnado. The senior is averaging 13.5 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. His 4.8 blocks per game makes him an intimidating force. Last time out against UF, Vernon Macklin got the best of Varnado, scoring 20 points to Varnado's 16. Macklin made Varnado work as he missed 10 shots. Macklin will have to replicate that effort again while adding rebounds. Against Auburn yesterday, Macklin had only two rebounds. Another night like that and Varnado will destroy him on the glass.
Looking back on the February 6 meeting (69-62 UF win), neither team shot well. The standouts were Chandler Parsons scoring 18, and Miss State's Ravern Johnson and Barry Stewart with 20, 12 points respectively. Johnson and Stewart were a combined 6-12 from the 3-point line, which Florida must keep defending. In SEC play, UF is 12th in 3-point percentage allowed and 11th in total 3-pointers allowed (116 of 320). If Florida can force the Bulldogs into shooting below 30% from the arc, UF should win. Varnado is good, but Miss State needs their guards to score to pull off a victory.