The Florida Gators have been one of the great beneficiaries of the SEC-Big 12 Challenge thus far in its six years of existence.
Maybe the great beneficiary, even.
Florida is 4-1 in its previous five games in the event, its lone loss a valiant one at Kansas that was about a young team faltering down the stretch because it knew how to do nothing else. The Gators have knocked off Kansas, too, and beaten good West Virginia and Oklahoma and Baylor teams. Baylor’s only SEC-Big 12 Challenge loss is to the Gators; the same is true of Kansas.
That might change today, if Florida cannot overcome a very good TCU team in Fort Worth (noon, ESPN2) to run a nascent winning streak to three games. Instead of a springboard, the SEC-Big 12 Challenge might be a trap door.
Florida did just show that it can rally from deficits in games against Georgia and Texas A&M, and clamp down on defense when it needs to do so to win. KeVaughn Allen and Noah Locke combined for 58 points and 15 threes in a bombardment of the Aggies on Tuesday, and Florida allowed just 26 points to A&M in the second half after hemorrhaging 46 on 34 possessions before intermission.
But TCU is 14-4, and has been decent to good at home, knocking off Baylor and Texas and throttling a West Virginia team not that unlike Florida. The Horned Frogs also lost to Lipscomb at home, sure, but that was in November — and is the only home loss Jamie Dixon’s team has taken.
TCU succeeds because it has balance, and because it takes good shots, and because it plays good perimeter defense. Five Horned Frogs are averaging double-figure scoring this year, and while only four of them are healthy at the moment, all four can go off, with Desmond Bane, Kouat Noi, and Alex Robinson all posting at least one 20-point game this year, and J.D. Miller scoring 11 or more 13 times.
None of those four guys shoots worse than 50 percent on his twos; freshman big Kevin Samuel does them better and shoots almost 70 percent on his. Bane, Noi, and Robinson are all capable three-point shooters. No foe has made 10 threes against TCU this year; just one has managed to shoot better than 40 percent, and that was in a 35-point loss.
These Horned Frogs are a bad matchup for the Gators, who are the underdogs in this game because they should be.
But if Florida plays as well as it can, who knows what might come of that?