The Florida Gators have had some ups and downs — various factions will tell you there have been more of one or the other — in Mike White’s young tenure as their head coach.
One positive thing they have not done as of yet, though, is lose to Ole Miss, White’s alma mater, at home. And if Florida can escape that fate again tonight (6:30 p.m., SEC Network or WatchESPN), then the Gators will have at least something to show for what will be a formidable fortnight of hoops.
The primary problem for Florida on this night is that these Rebels are probably the best ones the Gators have seen since White took over for Billy Donovan. Kermit Davis — who himself took over for White mentor Andy Kennedy, who parted ways with Ole Miss after over a decade in Oxford — has a team that revolves around guards playing and shooting well, and the Rebels have a 4-2 mark in SEC play that includes wins over Auburn and at Mississippi State to show for it.
But they are also 1-3 in their last four contests, and just got sideswiped by an excellent Iowa State team in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge in their second double-digit loss in a week that also included a surprising 19-point loss at Alabama.
And those losses showed that the Rebels can fail at both ends: They scored just 0.83 points per possession in Tuscaloosa, then gave up 1.23 points per possession to the Cyclones. Florida’s defense is much more likely to limit Ole Miss to the former than its offense is to explode for the latter, but this is a good Ole Miss team, not a great one, and Florida should win this game, though it should also be close.
But Florida also “must” win this game to get at least one W on the board during a two-week stretch that will include games against Kentucky, Auburn, and Tennessee. Going 1-3 with the lone win in that stretch coming tonight would leave Florida’s NCAA Tournament hopes on life support, but going 0-4 is likely going to end them.
So on Superhero Night in the O’Connell Center, the Gators need to cape up.