Billy Donovan probably doesn't like winning games against Anthony Grant's team. As the heartbreaking 2011 feature on how Donovan, Grant, and John Pelphrey all lost children during their wives' pregnancies details, their bond goes beyond basketball.
But today, either Florida beats Alabama at the SEC Tournament (1 p.m., SEC Network), and keeps its hopes of an NCAA Tournament bid intact, or Alabama beats Florida for the first time under Grant, and Donovan is all but consigned to his worst season as Florida's coach in almost two decades.
Florida, to be clear, should win this game. It beat Alabama by a 52-50 count in Tuscaloosa earlier this season without getting a three from Michael Frazier II — who should come off the bench and play sparingly in this contest — for the first time in more than a year, and despite a truly hideous offensive performance by virtually every Gators player other than Chris Walker, who made six of his eight shots that night. (Dorian Finney-Smith's fantastic final minute gave Florida the win.) And Alabama had Shannon Hale and Ricky Tarrant, both out for this game with injuries, for that game: They combined for 18 of the Crimson Tide's 50 points, with Tarrant scoring 13 before leaving with what would later be diagnosed as season-ending plantar fasciitis.
Since losing Tarrant, Alabama is 5-6; since losing Hale in a win over South Carolina, the Tide are 1-2, with the win coming by a single point at home at Texas A&M.
But, well, Florida lost at A&M, and Florida is certainly capable of losing to a bad team (cough, Missouri, cough), so there are no guarantees today. If the Gators can keep the undermanned Tide from getting things going inside, and score enough buckets on their own to set up a press that flummoxed Alabama often in Tuscaloosa, things should go well.
Should, of course, is the most dangerous word in English when it comes to these Gators.