Florida vs. LSU, Game Thread: SEC title in hand, Gators still have history to play for

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida's won everything it can win in the regular season. But with three games to go, there's still plenty of history is on the line.

Florida clinched its second straight outright SEC championship on Thursday, when Kentucky lost to Arkansas. With that win, Florida is assured the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament in two weeks — and the bye that goes with it — even if it loses all three of its remaining games in the regular season.

But there's plenty more to play for, beginning Saturday at 4 p.m. against LSU (4 p.m., CBS / CBS Sports Live). Mostly, it's history.

There's a segment in the 2013-14 Florida media guide (PDF) on page 84 with the subheading Florida Basketball Streaks. It looks like this:

  • Longest winning: 17 (3x, most recently Dec. 6, 2006 to Feb. 14, 2007 and ended Feb. 17, 2007)
  • Longest home winning: 24 (March 1, 2006 to Nov. 20, 2007 and ended Nov. 23, 2007)
  • Longest losing: 14 (Dec. 22, 1981 to Feb. 3, 1982 and ending Feb. 6, 1982; Jan. 17, 1990 to Feb. 24, 1990 and ending Feb. 27, 1990)
  • Longest home losing: 5 (3x, most recent Jan. 17, 1990 to Feb. 21, 1990 and ending Feb. 27, 1990)
  • Longest road winning: 7 (Dec. 18, 1940 to Feb. 3, 1941 and ending Feb. 10, 1941)
  • Longest road losing: 17 (Feb. 7, 1979 to Dec. 6, 1980 and ending Dec. 13, 1980)
  • Longest SEC winning: 13 (March 1, 2006 to Feb. 14, 2007 and ending Feb. 17, 2007; Feb. 4, 1967 to Jan. 4, 1969 and ending Jan. 6, 1969)
  • Longest SEC losing: 12 (Jan. 17, 1990 to Feb. 24, 1990 and ending Feb. 27, 1990)
  • Longest home SEC winning: 13 (March 1, 2006 to Feb. 9, 2008 and ending Feb. 13, 2009)
  • Longest home SEC losing: 7 (Jan. 22, 1979 to Feb. 24, 1979 and end- ing Jan. 2, 1980)
  • Longest road SEC winning: 6 (March 5, 2006 to Feb. 10, 2007 and ending Feb. 17, 2007)
  • Longest road SEC losing: 22 (Feb. 14, 1981 to Jan. 2, 1984 and ending Jan. 4, 1984)
  • Longest non-conference winning: 40 (Nov. 16, 1998 to Dec. 6, 2003 and ending Dec. 10, 2003)
  • Wins to open a season: 17 (2005-06)
  • Wins to open SEC schedule: 11 (2007)
  • Losses to open a season: 6 (1927-28; 1928-29; 1942-43)
  • Losses to open SEC schedule: 6 (entire SEC schedule) 1942-43
  • Most consecutive winning seasons: 15 (1999-present)
  • Most consecutive losing seasons: 7 (1923-29)
  • Most consecutive SEC winning seasons: 15 (1999-present)
  • Most consecutive SEC losing seasons: 7 (1954-60)
  • Most consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances: 9 (1999-2007)
  • Most consecutive wins vs. opponent: 17 vs. Rollins (1922-present)
  • Most consecutive wins vs. SEC opponent: 14 vs. Tennessee (1991-98)

The updated version of this segment would currently read like this, with nine alterations:

  • Longest winning: 20 (Dec. 10, 2013 to Feb. 25, 2014, ongoing)
  • Longest home winning: 30 (Nov. 11, 2012 to Feb. 19, 2014, ongoing)
  • Longest losing: 14 (Dec. 22, 1981 to Feb. 3, 1982 and ending Feb. 6, 1982; Jan. 17, 1990 to Feb. 24, 1990 and ending Feb. 27, 1990)
  • Longest home losing: 5 (3x, most recent Jan. 17, 1990 to Feb. 21, 1990 and ending Feb. 27, 1990)
  • Longest road winning: 8 (Jan. 11, 2014 to Feb. 25, 2014, ongoing)
  • Longest road losing: 17 (Feb. 7, 1979 to Dec. 6, 1980 and ending Dec. 13, 1980)
  • Longest SEC winning: 15 (Jan. 9, 2014 to Feb. 25, 2014, ongoing)
  • Longest SEC losing: 12 (Jan. 17, 1990 to Feb. 24, 1990 and ending Feb. 27, 1990)
  • Longest home SEC winning: 16 (Jan. 9, 2013 to Feb. 19, 2014, ongoing)
  • Longest home SEC losing: 7 (Jan. 22, 1979 to Feb. 24, 1979 and ending Jan. 2, 1980)
  • Longest road SEC winning: 8 (Jan. 11, 2014 to Feb. 25, 2014)
  • Longest road SEC losing: 22 (Feb. 14, 1981 to Jan. 2, 1984 and ending Jan. 4, 1984)
  • Longest non-conference winning: 40 (Nov. 16, 1998 to Dec. 6, 2003 and ending Dec. 10, 2003)
  • Wins to open a season: 17 (2005-06)
  • Wins to open SEC schedule: 15 (2014)
  • Losses to open a season: 6 (1927-28; 1928-29; 1942-43)
  • Losses to open SEC schedule: 6 (entire SEC schedule) 1942-43
  • Most consecutive winning seasons: 16 (1999-present)
  • Most consecutive losing seasons: 7 (1923-29)
  • Most consecutive SEC winning seasons: 16 (1999-present)
  • Most consecutive SEC losing seasons: 7 (1954-60)
  • Most consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances: 9 (1999-2007)
  • Most consecutive wins vs. opponent: 17 vs. Rollins (1922-present)
  • Most consecutive wins vs. SEC opponent: 14 vs. Tennessee (1991-98)

Of the 13 streaks pertaining to winning in Florida history, the 2013-14 Gators have set or extended nine already. And 2013-14 Florida could not have set or extended the other four.

Basically, every regular season record has already fallen for Florida.

Florida's current 26-2 record, and the .929 winning percentage that goes along with it, is the best record through 28 games in school history. The Gators' 25-2 record was the best in school history through 27 games, too. With each successive win, those accolades accumulate, and the streaks add another number.

But Florida will also have the best record in school history through 29 games if it loses against LSU. It will have the best school record through 30 games if it loses against South Carolina on Tuesday. It will have the best regular season record in school history, something it will share with the 2006-07 Gators, even if it loses its final three games. Its next win sets the school record for wins in a regular season.

That is how great this Florida is and will be, compared to its predecessors. The chances for history before the Gators now are less about the Florida teams that this one has and will pass, and more about the greatest teams in SEC history.

2011-12 Kentucky, which went 38-2 and won the national title, went undefeated, a perfect 16-0, in regular SEC play. With a win over LSU, Florida would tie that 2012 Kentucky mark; with wins over LSU and South Carolina, Florida would exceed it. With wins over its last three games, Florida would set a standard for perfection in regular-season SEC play that could never be surpassed, only equaled.

Winning out would tie that 2012 Kentucky team's 18 consecutive wins over SEC competition. Winning out and winning its first SEC Tournament game would give Florida 19 consecutive conference wins, tying 2003 Kentucky's conference record for a single season. Winning out and two SEC Tournament wins would give Florida 20 of those, a new conference record; winning out and winning the SEC Tournament would make Florida only the perfect team ever in a 14-team SEC, just the second perfect team ever in SEC play, joining 2003 Kentucky, and, I believe, the first team to go 21-0 in conference play in college basketball history.

So, yes, there's history available for this team, and a lot of it.

Star-divide

Florida may not necessarily hunt that history vigorously over its next two games. Despite Kasey Hill healthy and ready to play, Billy Donovan will likely work him back into the rotation carefully against LSU, as his groin injury is a delicate matter and his importance to the team is such that playing him for something around the 23.4 minutes per game he has averaged this year makes little sense.

It's good to remember that Hill's minutes averages are skewed partially by the extensive action he got early, while Scottie Wilbekin was still suspended; take away the 106 minutes Hill played in those four games, and he's averaging almost a minute less per game since Wilbekin's return to Florida's lineup, more in line with the 43.7 percent of available minutes KenPom credits him with playing this season. But Hill's also important to the flow of this team, as it struggles to create when Wilbekin is out, and so Florida will probably have to balance needing Hill on Saturday against LSU and needing him down the line in more important games.

And Florida will need him: History aside, this game is far more important to LSU than Florida, and should be. The Tigers are scrapping for an NCAA Tournament berth, which would be the program's first since 2009, and Florida is the best win remaining on their schedule.

LSU just missed getting a second signature win and completing a season sweep of Kentucky last Saturday, falling 77-76 in overtime on a Julius Randle putback after having a chance to win the game in regulation. The Tigers didn't play particularly well, scoring just 1.03 points per possession and allowing Kentucky to score 1.04 PPP without shotting 45 percent from either inside or outside the arc, but they did make seven of 12 threes, something that has to concern Florida given the Gators' recent history of perimeter indifference. Florida's last six foes have each made at least five threes, and none has shot worse than Mississippi did last Saturday while making 32 percent of its triples; those teams have shot a combined 42.8 percent from distance, and a very respectable 48 percent from the field, a recipe for six games decided by single digits.

But none of those teams have won, despite five of them getting the Gators on the road, and Florida matches up well against LSU, even if the Tigers are talented on a level that no SEC team but Kentucky — the Gators included — can match. Freshman Jordan Mickey and junior Johnny O'Bryant are each listed (Mickey at No. 55, O'Bryant at No. 82) among Draft Express's top 100 NBA Draft prospects — a list that includes Florida's Chris Walker at No. 35 and Patric Young at No. 86 — and both have been brilliant at times for LSU this season. The "at times," though, is important: O'Bryant shoots under 50 percent from the field, and has a sub-100 Offensive Rating, both Mickey and O'Bryant turn the ball over on more than a fifth of their possessions on the court, and neither player is immune to puzzling no-shows. If Florida can prevent either player from getting rolling offensively, it could be a long day for the Tigers.

It's going to be a long day for Wilbekin no matter what, as he will be chasing around snipers Anthony Hickey (37.1 percent from three) and Andre Stringer (40.6 percent from three) and trying to keep them under wraps. If one or both is hot, Florida could well lose this game, but Michael Frazier II has been heating up of late after a relatively cold February, and could ignite what is sure to be a lively O'Dome crowd if he is hot against a perimeter defense that ranks last in SEC play.

KenPom thinks Florida will win this game 76-64, and gives Florida an 89 percent chance of getting the victory, probably partially because of that perimeter defense. I think it'll be closer than that.

But, then again, I've been wrong about my hunches of late for this team. I would gladly take being wrong about a close game today if it means Florida wins in a blowout.

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