Florida's won its first three games of the 2015-16 season — and the first three games of Mike White's tenure as just the program's second coach in the last 20 seasons — by double digits, and in different styles.
On Sunday, the Gators get a chance to do something new: Win as an underdog.
That's the challenged presented by the final of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic against Purdue (5:30 p.m., ESPN2 or WatchESPN). The Boilermakers are ranked in both national polls — No. 21 in the AP Top 25, No. 23 in the coaches' poll — and far more highly regarded by KenPom, which has Purdue as the No. 12 team in the nation.
That's reflective of how dominant the Boilermakers have been early on this season, with four wins by an average of 31.5 points, including a 22-point rout of top-100 team Old Dominion on Saturday. KenPom likes the Gators, too, slotting them in at No. 32, but it forecasts a 74-70 Purdue win today.
If that happens, it will probably be by virtue of the Boilers' massive frontcourt. Purdue's four most important bigs are all 6'9" or taller, and both Isaac Haas and A.J. Hammons are legitimate seven-footers. Those two and Jacquil Taylor all boast block percentages better than 10 percent of possessions — and the fourth member of the frontcourt, freshman Caleb Swanigan, might be the Boilermakers' best player by year's end, though he's struggled to start this season.
That forest makes it tremendously difficult for opponents to score inside on Purdue, and it also draws the sort of defense that leaves perimeter players open. Matt Painter's team has taken advantage of that: Five Boilermakers have made at least four threes and are shooting at least 40 percent from three on the young year.
But this might be the sort of game in which Florida can press its opponent into enough mistakes to make a difference. Purdue turns it over on more than 18 percent of its offensive possessions, and Florida forces turnovers on more than 20 percent of its defensive possessions.
Cheap points off turnovers and buckets in transition are good marginal aids in a game that is destined to be close. Florida would do well to accrue those today.