The Gators are a little bit better than last year's version. The problem is that the rest of the SEC is much better. The loss at Vanderbilt was a small case, but tonight Kentucky and their NBA point guard John Wall come to town.
UF (11-4, 0-1 SEC) had been playing good enough defense to keep their awful offense in the game. But Vandy and NC State showed if you a big man that can play inside, Florida has no answer. Kentucky (16-0, 1-0) not only has Wall, but also an improved Patrick Patterson (averaging 16.7ppg, 8.1rpg) and DeMarcus Cousins (15.4ppg, 9.4rpg). Those two may destroy Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus. Chandler Parsons, as the first man in, cannot compete with either of Kentucky's bigs. And you can forget about Erik Murphy or Dan Werner making an impact around the goal on defense.
Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker are average defenders who will be tested against Wall. Georgia showed this weekend against UK that Wall can be frustrated into a typical freshman game, where he gets his 15 points, but needs 15 shots to get it. (It was 17 points off 5-14 shooting against UGA for Wall.) Florida may have to choose who to try to lock down; Wall or Patterson/Cousins. It might be more valuable to lock down Wall and hope the impact slows all of UK's offense, as UGA did.
Of course, UGA did more than just play good defense as they shot 47% from the field and 43% from 3-point range. Kentucky had a huge advantage in free throws shot; 12-15 for UGA, 22-33 for UK. Kentucky further made up any difference by forcing UGA into 26 turnovers, while the Cats had 14.
You can make the case that Kentucky isn't as good as everyone thinks, but they keep finding ways to win. That seems like the biggest reason to pick the Cats tonight. But they have only played one true road game; at Indiana. Anything is possible, but it is going to take a huge night from the Gators to pull off the upset.