Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Florida's already gotten some big wins at home in 2012-13. But beating fellow SEC power Missouri would establish the Gators as the SEC's frontrunner.
Florida's already got a few trophies on the wall from the 2012-13 basketball season: There's a badger fur from its win over Wisconsin, a stuffed eagle from a domination of Marquette, and ... something "Seminole" from its win over Florida State. But the Gators' Saturday showdown with Missouri (2 p.m., ESPN) is their biggest game of the year — and would be their biggest win.
Florida sits at 3-0 in the SEC and is one of just two teams in the conference with a spotless mark; Mississippi is also 3-0. So Florida can put itself two games and a head-to-head win up on Missouri with a win today, and set itself up to be 7-0 in the SEC when Mississippi comes to Gainesville on February 2.
That's part of why this game is Florida's first non-Kentucky sellout in some time, though aggressive marketing and a fortuitous 2 p.m. start on Saturday certainly helped, too. And Missouri being really good at basketball — the Tigers handed an exceptional VCU team one of its three losses — is also nice: Junior Phil Pressey might be the best point guard in the country, and he's averaging an absurd 9.8 assists per game over the Tigers' last six games. Alex Oriakhi is a monster on the boards, especially the offensive glass, and has pulled down three or more offensive rebounds in all but three games this season.
But elite defenses — Louisville and Mississippi — have been able to hold the Tigers in check in wins, and Florida's defense has been elite in all but its two losses this season, holding teams under 1.0 points per possession in all 13 of its wins. And Florida's offense is elite, too, capable of breaking off runs that leave other teams avalanched.
Florida's still got its laundry list of injuries to deal with, but Mike Rosario's return from an ankle injury on Thursday at Texas A&M was a fantastic one, and Scottie Wilbekin's broken finger hasn't stopped him from being very capable on offense (where he's shifted to playing more point guard) and defense.
And Missouri's got the most important injury in this game, one that will sideline Laurence Bowers. Bowers is the scoring combo forward that complements Oriakhi's bruising style on the front line, and Missouri might struggle to get things going inside without him.
As always: I'm in the comments, and I'm on Twitter, and I love talking basketball