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Florida vs. LSU, Game Thread: Gators face Tigers, talented Ben Simmons

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Florida faces the tall task of keeping Ben Simmons in check.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Florida faceplanted its last time out, falling 83-69 at Tennessee in a game that was nowhere near as close as its final score. Now the Gators take on perhaps the toughest test in the SEC this season: Taming LSU's most talented Tiger, Ben Simmons (1:30 p.m., CBS).

Simmons is as surefire a No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft as any player has been since LeBron James was in 2003, and has drawn comparisons to James despite standing two inches taller than him. His handle is remarkable for a big man, his passing is phenomenal, and he excels at just about anything one can do on a basketball court.

But that just about is important, because Simmons is mortal when he can be walled off from the basket. Per hoop-math, Simmons shoots just under 35 percent from the field on two-point jumpers, and those shots comprise nearly 44 percent of his attempts from the floor. Compared to his superb field goal percentage at the rim — 79.1 percent, significantly better than any rotation Gator not named Justin Leon — Simmons is positively pedestrian from outside the paint, and if Florida can prevent him from getting deep post touches, it will only need to focus on shutting down the cutters and shooters Simmons can find.

The good news: Only a couple of those players are remarkably efficient. Sniper Keith Hornsby, who shot well against Florida in 2014-15, making five of 12 threes in two meetings, has been a boost to the Tigers since his season debut in late December, and Tim Quarterman has been efficient, too, though largely because he has fed Simmons well. Beyon that, LSU's gotten only disappointing production to date from Antonio Blakeney, once thought of as Simmons's co-headliner in this class.

Keeping LSU in check may not even matter if Florida can't put the ball in the bucket, though. The Gators' defense is still No. 3 nationally per KenPom, but their offense has fallen all the way to No. 123, after their third-worst night of the year against a pedestrian Tennessee defense. It's hard to see how Florida can consistently create offense if neither Chris Chiozza or Kasey Hill can finish at the rim and none of the Gators' purported shooters are on target from beyond the arc, and both Dorian Finney-Smith and Egbunu have struggled of late.

The stage is set for either another dispiriting loss or a surprising win. I'm excited to see which one comes to pass for the Gators.