The Florida Gators roll into Auburn Arena — a facility on which Florida modeled some of its renovation of the O’Connell Center — on this Tuesday night with the hopes of upsetting a ranked team that is pretty solidly pointed toward the NCAA Tournament.
To do that, they’ll have to beat a team that plays like Florida wishes it could.
Primarily, the Gators probably wish they could score like Auburn, which is coming off demolitions of Missouri and Alabama by 34 and 19 points a week ago. Mike White might not trade KeVaughn Allen and Noah Locke for Bryce Brown and Jared Harper, but he would at least have to consider it, as the Tigers’ backcourt duo does much of what the Gators’ pair does, but more consistently.
Of course, it helps that Auburn has other threats to complement its starting five. Tweener forward Chuma Okeke is streaky, but can be potent inside and out. Anfernee McLemore cleans the glass and protects the paint well. And center Austin Wiley might get some burn tonight as he recovers from an injury, which would show Florida what having a true big would be like.
The Gators obviously don’t have that sort of personnel to turn to on offense. But their defense is remarkably similar to Auburn’s: It wants to pressure the ball and funnel drivers to shot-blockers when possible, and limit threes all night. That could lead to a bunch of turnovers in this game, as Auburn is first in defensive turnover percentage, and Florida fourth.
But if these teams run, it is Auburn — which is favored, and should win — who will likely be the beneficiary of the stepped-up pace.
And it’s hard to see Florida winning this game against a better mirror image of itself without a cold night on the Plains by the Tigers.