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Florida vs. Alabama, Game Thread: Gators seek to roll Tide in new era

Can Florida keep up its winning ways against the Crimson Tide?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For every matchup in decade, it appeared in almost every article written about Florida and Alabama meeting in men's basketball: "Anthony Grant has never beaten Billy Donovan." That teacher-student relationship produced both coaches in the matchup from 2009 to 2015, and those games all went to the Gators.

Saturday evening, as the Gators host the Crimson Tide in the O'Connell Center (5:30 p.m., SEC Network or WatchESPN), both of those coaches still share a sideline — but they do so in Oklahoma City, where Grant serves as Donovan's assistant with the Thunder.

This is Mike White's first time seeing Alabama, and Avery Johnson's first time seeing Florida, and it feels like a chance for Alabama to swing momentum in the series. Unfortunately for the Tide, Florida looks like the better team: Though Alabama's won three straight, those games have been at Mississippi State, home against Missouri, and home against Texas A&M — the latter by a single point, and with the Aggies in a prolonged slump.

Alabama gets fine shooting from Arthur Edwards, Riley Norris, and Retin Obasohan, but struggles with just about everything else on offense, turning the ball over on more than a fifth of its possessions and allocating about as many threes to poorer shooters Justin Coleman and Shannon Hale as it does to that sharpshooting trio.

The Crimson Tide have a fine defense, largely a relic of Grant's successful defenses in his time in Tuscaloosa, but it bleeds offensive rebounds. That plays into Florida's hands, and with the Gators reinserting Devin Robinson into their starting lineup, they could clean up on the boards on this Saturday.

Florida's also been simply exceptional at home on Saturdays this season, with only LSU — thanks to a torrent of free throws by Ben Simmons — able to keep a margin of defeat in single digits. And Alabama's not as good as LSU.

If the Gators don't start a new coaching matchup against the Crimson Tide with the same old result on Saturday, it will be a surprise.