Yeah, so: Florida’s probably not going to beat Kentucky (2 p.m, CBS or CBS Sports) on this Saturday.
The Gators are decided underdogs against the towering, talented Wildcats, who have fallen just once in Rupp Arena this season — and, even then, required a controversial call benefiting LSU to be beaten — and rounded into form as one of the nation’s best teams. Even though Tennessee drumming John Calipari’s team in Knoxville last weekend likely made a No. 1 seed for the ‘Cats only possible via an SEC Tournament title, this is a Kentucky team that has legitimate Final Four aspirations, and thus could win a national title with the proper breaks.
Florida, of course, is just hoping for an unlikely win on this day or other proper breaks to get into the NCAA Tournament. The Gators didn’t get those on Wednesday against LSU, which vaporized a Florida edge midway through the second half with a 90-second 10-0 run and then fought the Gators tooth-and-nail down the stretch for what would become a 79-78 overtime triumph. Jalen Hudson played his best game as a senior — and maybe as a Gator — against the Tigers, pouring in 33 points, but a quiet night from KeVaughn Allen and an inability to keep LSU off of the boards helped doom the Gators.
And those two problems could well resurface against Kentucky. This isn’t one of Calipari’s absolute best teams up front — no one is confusing P.J. Washington, as many strides as he’s made as a sophomore, for Anthony Davis or DeMarcus Cousins — but it does, as usual, hammer the offensive glass, ranking 11th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage. Kentucky bettered its season average in the first meeting with Florida, too, pulling down just shy of 40 percent of its misses to help compensate for relatively average shooting.
And Allen, despite some notable heroics on last-second shots against Kentucky, has just two games with more than 12 points against the Wildcats in his career, and hasn’t had one since going for 24 at Rupp in his sophomore season. Allen can shrink and/or struggle against longer, more tenacious defenders, and Kentucky certainly has players like that, from point guard Ashton Hagans on up.
If Florida pulls off this upset, it will probably be because Allen outperforms expectations, and is joined in teammates by doing so.
But if the Gators can’t do so, no one will be particularly surprised.