Florida's already fended off a game Missouri team once. But the Gators will have a much more motivated team of Tigers to deal with in their 2014 SEC Tournament quarterfinal (1:00 p.m., ESPNU or ESPN3) on Friday.
The Gators don't have much to play for, at least when it comes to NCAA Tournament seeding. Yes, the No. 1 overall seed is probably only Florida's if it at least matches Arizona's Pac-12 Tournament run, but Florida's locked into a No. 1 seed and should be locked into the South Region at this point, and even a loss to Missouri won't change that. Certainly, these Gators would like an SEC Tournament title, their first, but if there's an enthusiasm gap on the court in the Georgia Dome, it will be understandable.
Missouri is playing for an NCAA Tournament berth, and can all but secure it today.
The Tigers have been kept alive by a rubbery bubble, which has kept many mediocre teams in the mix, but they might have done themselves no favors by winning on Thursday, given how uninspiring they looked in a double overtime triumph over Texas A&M. Chris Dobbertean has the Tigers among his first four teams out, and notes that Missouri's bad losses — to teams like Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, and Vanderbilt — are really, really bad.
So the Tigers are close enough to the cut line that a win over Florida probably pushes them over the top — and a loss probably ends any NCAA Tournament dreams. This game will be do-or-NIT for Missouri.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Florida's much better than they are.
When Florida scored its 68-58 win over Missouri in Gainesville in Februrary, it did so in Chris Walker's debut, in the midst of Michael Frazier II's shooting slump, and at the outset of Dorian Finney-Smith's dry spell. The Gators made six of 20 threes on that night, and won largely by converting at the free throw line, where they sank 24 of 33 freebies. This team has been much warmer from distance of late, making an average of 11 threes over its last three games, and Finney-Smith has come back to life, scoring in double figures in three of his last four contests.
And Missouri's Jabari Brown, who came into Gainesville on an incredible hot streak, hasn't regained his form since that game: He shot at least 50 percent from the field in all six games immediately prior to that matchup, and has only done so three times in 10 games since.
KenPom gives Florida an 86 percent chance of victory, and predicts a 73-63 final, but that prediction doesn't take into account Missouri playing 50 minutes on Thursday, and doesn't really weight how bad the Tigers looked — which really can't be understated — in struggling with the Aggies.