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Florida vs. Alabama, Game Thread: Reeling Gators hoping to turn Tide, and their fortunes

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Anthony Grant's teams have never beaten Billy Donovan's. That might change tonight.

Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports

The last time Florida lost three straight men's basketball games, the No. 1 movie in America was The Lorax.

So, yeah, it's been a while.

The almost three years that have transpired since did include two Elite Eight trips and a Final Four run, but this season's Gators now seem destined to miss the NCAA Tournament — a prospect that even Billy Donovan conceded this week.

But it's been seven years since Florida lost four straight games, a "feat" the 2007-08 Gators accomplished by dropping their final three SEC regular-season matchups &mdash just like the 2011-12 Gators did — and punctuated with a first-round exit in the SEC Tournament.

Their conqueror in that fourth loss? Alabama, the same team that could hand the Gators their fourth straight loss on Tuesday night (9 p.m., ESPN / WatchESPN) in Tuscaloosa.

Of course, that was also Alabama's last win over Florida. Mark Gottfried's Crimson Tide lost to the Gators in 2009, and Gottfried resigned before the two teams played in 2009, in a game that Florida won at home. Then Billy Donovan protege Anthony Grant was hired as head coach, and Donovan cast whatever "teacher trumps student" spell Rick Pitino cast on him: Grant has gone 0-8 against Florida since donning crimson.

But the Tide scared Florida in Tuscaloosa in 2010, losing by a single point in an up-and-down affair, and Florida hasn't beaten Grant's charges by double digits in Tuscaloosa in three tries.

And this team may be Grant's best since 2012, his only NCAA Tournament team at 'Bama. Scorers Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper fuel the nation's No. 16 team in two-point shooting, and Cooper's 41.5 percent shooting from distance makes him the lone marksman of five Alabama players who have taken at least 50 threes this year — the other four have all shot worse than 32 percent from deep this year.

This, of course, means one of them will get hot and make two or three triples against Florida — #Science — and keep the Tide in it if Florida is making shots or bury a cold Gators squad. Florida is coming off its fourth-best shooting night (by Effective Field Goal Percentage) of the year, but it wasn't enough for the Gators in a last-seconds loss to Mississippi. And it's doubtful that Michael Frazier II, whose 27 points in that contest came on 6-for-8 shooting from deep and 7-for-7 shooting from the line, will be quite as good against taller Alabama defenders.

But efficiency numbers do still suggest that Florida is slightly better than Alabama, and it's the road-team adjustment baked into the KenPom projections that suggests Florida will fall by a 62-59 count tonight. And while Alabama's got 6'10" Jimmie Taylor to protect the rim and punish the Gators underneath on the defensive end, Taylor is sparingly used on the offensive end — he's had a usage rating over 15 percent just once in SEC play — and there's no other player who profiles as the sort of back-to-the-basket big that has given Jon Horford and Chris Walker fits this year.

This isn't a bad matchup for Florida, but neither were Georgia or Mississippi, and these Gators found creative ways to lose both of those games. Let's hope that ingenuity will finally run dry tonight.