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Florida vs. Alabama, Game Thread: Gators seek winning start to SEC play

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The Gators could use a 1-0 beginning in conference action.

NCAA Basketball: Florida at Connecticut David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators have played their non-conference schedule — a slate that still includes a date with top-10 Baylor — at par or a shot or two worse in this 2019-20 season, with just a couple of big wins (Xavier, Miami) and four losses against teams that promise to be NCAA Tournament teams.

For these Gators, winning Saturday against Alabama (6 p.m., ESPN2 or WatchESPN) would be a good start to the second phase of the season.

And a win will likely be there for the Gators to take, especially at home. The Crimson Tide are starting their first SEC campaign under former Buffalo coach Nate Oats, and have become one of the fastest teams in the country, and — in recent days — a fairly consistent one, with a 5-1 record over their final six games.

But Alabama, led by the three-guard attack of Kira Lewis, Jaden Shackleford, and John Petty, has also struggled a bit against better competition, with its only KenPom top-100 wins coming against Furman, Belmont, and Richmond — good teams, yes, but also undersized ones from mid-major conferences.

Florida is not that team, not with Kerry Blackshear up front and talent up and down the roster. But Florida has also not been the fully-revved team that fans have been waiting to see all season, with a 100-point effort against Long Beach State a week ago set to be revealed as the first part of a trend or fool’s gold against the Crimson Tide.