Florida has to win the games they are supposed to win. Their nail biter Thursday at Alabama was one of those, even if it took more last second heroics. Saturday is another game the Gators (16-6, 5-3 SEC) are supposed to win, as Mississippi State (16-6, 4-3) comes to Gainesville.
Miss State has been exactly that lately, missing shots. In seven SEC games, the Bulldogs are shooting 38%. In their 75-72 loss at Vandy on Wednesday, they shot an incredible 9-34 from three-point range. Miss State gets credit for a late second half surge to make it a game, but it followed a six minute stretch with only two buckets. The Bulldogs are still led by Jarvis Varnado (13ppg, 11rpg), but this is not the team that was ranked to start the season. They have also lost their last three road games.
The Gators have won five of six games after starting the SEC season. Chandler Parsons and the backcourt of Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker have been impressive over this stretch. But Alex Tyus has also been playing well, averaging 16 points in the last six games. Tyus rebounding has gotten better in SEC play, despite the presence of Vernon Macklin. If there is one huge disappointment this season, it has been the stagnation of Macklin's growth. 22 games is enough time to shake off the rust of missing a year. But Tyus still benefits, because Macklin's presence means Tyus can step out for a jumper or rebound against the opponent's power forward, not center.
Saturday's game sets up an interesting week for the Gators. Mississippi State is no slouch, but they are 3-4 in road games this season. On Wednesday, UF faces South Carolina in Columbia, where the mighty John Walls lost. After that, it's home for Xavier. Miss State is a game UF is supposed to win and the other two are games that NCAA tournament teams win.