The Florida Gators scored their best win of the season just two short weeks ago when they went to LSU and outlasted the Tigers for an 82-77 overtime triumph.
If they can do it again on Senior Night in Gainesville (7:30 p.m., ESPN2 or WatchESPN), they may well be sealing their NCAA Tournament plans as a result.
The Tigers have arguably enhanced their own profile more than the loss to Florida hurt it in the three games since, topping Tennessee in overtime and going on the road to beat possible NCAA Tournament team Alabama around a win over Texas A&M. And with the Vols — and Kentucky — looking like No. 2 seeds at worst, LSU’s inside track to the SEC’s regular season title, earned by virtue of having a better SEC record than the Wildcats and tiebreaker wins over both the Vols and Wildcats, is all the more impressive for that.
If LSU beats Florida tonight, all it would have to do to win the SEC crown and get a No. 1 seed that will provide a very manageable path to the SEC Tournament final is win its Senior Day contest on Saturday against Vanderbilt.
Of course, Florida upsetting the apple cart is what we’re going to be rooting for this evening.
And if the Gators are going to do that, getting big contributions from the three seniors who will be honored would be a good start.
KeVaughn Allen, Kevarrius Hayes, and Jalen Hudson combined for 46 points in Baton Rouge, and only Noah Locke joined them in double figures. Matching that scoring output alone would go a long way, but Allen replicating the defense he played on Tremont Waters, Hayes standing tall against LSU’s formidable forwards, and Hudson providing a spark akin to the one Skyler Mays gave the Tigers would all be bright ideas.
And so would doing more than merely matching LSU on the offensive glass. Florida couldn’t keep the Tigers from following their misses, yielding 18 offensive boards in that game, but compensated by getting 15 offensive rebounds of their own. Cutting LSU’s numbers down and forcing the Tigers to score on their first shots is probably Florida’s point of emphasis entering this game, as the Gators did nearly everything else well two weeks ago.
Of course, LSU could also just shoot better than it did in Baton Rouge, or capitalize on odd flatness from Florida like Georgia did this past Saturday. Either of those things would make it tough for Florida to win this one — and a loss will likely force the Gators to win either at Rupp Arena or in the SEC Tournament to make a March Madness reservation.