Florida vs. Texas A&M, Game Thread: Gators welcome Ags to O'Dome for first SEC game

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

Florida's basketball history is long, and gets richer with each passing year. The Gators get to do something new on this Saturday, welcoming Texas A&M to Gainesville.

Florida's basketball program has done a lot of cool things in its history, especially its recent history. There was Neal Walk getting picked just after Lew Alcindor, and ... then some other stuff, and then a Final Four in 1994, and then Billy Donovan arrived and a lot of other good stuff happened.

But Florida has never played Texas A&M in Gainesville in an SEC game. We're watching history today at 4 p.m. on SEC TV affiliates and ESPN3, y'all!

Florida's played A&M four times in its history, and come away with wins in 1992, 2011, and 2013 in games that took place in Gainesville, Sunrise, and College Station. Last year's win was a blowout: Florida thumped the Aggies 68-47 without Casey Prather, and made Elston Turner, that A&M team's lodestar, suffer through one of the worst performances of his collegiate career.

This A&M team comes to Gainesville off an 0-4 skid that began with a loss at Mississippi State and snowballed into a stretch of horrific play that culminated in a hideous 80-52 road loss to South Carolina on Wednesday. Turner is gone, and Jamal Jones and Davonte Fitzgerald have largely taken his place as the Aggies' go-to scorers. They're not very good at scoring, alas, with Jones putting in 11.7 points per game to lead the Aggies and Fitzgerald sitting in the middle of a group of seven other Aggies who score between 9.7 and 5.8 points per contest.

If the Aggies have an edge on Florida, it's that depth — those eight players all average at least 16 minutes per game, but no more than 29 — but that's unlikely to do much against the Gators, who have been spectacular at home in SEC play, decimating Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee by an average of better than 20 points. J'Mychal Reese, the A&M player who would fit best for Florida, and one of those players in Fitzgerald's pack of contributors, was dismissed in December, and without his firepower, it's hard to see the Aggies pulling an upset today — KenPom gives Florida a 96 percent chance of winning this one, the highest number remaining in the regular season for the Gators, and projects a 66-50 final.

In front of a rowdy home crowd that will surely serenade Patric Young with "Happy Birthday" on his 22nd and chant happily for the newly-freed Chris Walker, I wouldn't be surprised if the Gators surpassed that expectation.

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