The Florida Gators are 4-1 in SEC play, one miserable road loss at Ole Miss away from being undefeated, heading into their Wednesday night clash with Arkansas (7 p.m., ESPN2 or WatchESPN).
To win this one, and improve to 5-1 in the league prior to a Saturday showdown at Kentucky, the Gators will have to beat a team that looks like they do in one important facet.
Both Florida and Arkansas rank in the top 10 nationally in offensive turnover percentage — Florida is No. 3, giving the ball to its foes on just 14.1 percent of offensive possessions, and Arkansas is No. 6, doing so on 14.6 percent of trips. Those are not just strong numbers, but ones nearly unheard of in high-major play — just four of the 10 teams nationally turning it over on under 15 percent of possessions are from high-major conferences, with the rest of those spots largely occupied by teams set to be the lights of lesser leagues. (And the other two big-name teams in the top 10 are Villanova and Michigan, great teams known for smart offenses.)
That care with the ball has only persisted for one of the two teams in SEC play, though, and it’s Florida. The Gators have committed turnovers on just 12.9 percent of possessions against SEC opponents, a figure that would be best in the country if it were true of all of Florida’s games, while Arkansas is up at 16.9 percent — respectable, but ninth in the conference.
And that relative carelessness is part of why the Hogs have struggled in league play, going 2-3 and winning both of their games by just two points. Add in that one of those three losses was a stunning home shellacking at the hands of a younger LSU squad, and it is probably fair to wonder whether Mike Anderson’s team is in a month-long swoon, given that it is 1-3 in January after scraping by Tennessee in an overtime game that was its last of 2017.
Florida, of course, is prone to its own swoons, even ones in individual games. And the Gators are still without a reliable interior defense, something that Kevarrius Hayes and Keith Stone had teamed to provide prior to Saturday’s loss, when Ole Miss feasted underneath and on drives.
But the Gators are playing better, despite that loss, than Arkansas — and are also, crucially, playing at home, which should help against a Hogs outfit that has had trouble away from the Natural State for years now.