For most of this 2019-20 season of men’s college basketball, the Florida Gators have been affixed to a narrative that was tacked on to the single digit in their preseason rankings, with their fortunes on the court — and Mike White’s status as head coach — being evaluated in that light, fairly or not.
The Gators’ date with the Georgia Bulldogs this Wednesday night (7:00 p.m., ESPNU or WatchESPN) brings them in for a tango with another team well aware of the seductive side of expectations — and one not having as good a season as Florida.
The expectations in Athens this year weren’t as robust as in Gainesville, true — but they were and still are for Georgia wing Anthony Edwards, who remains in the mix for the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft despite an up-and-down season with Tom Crean’s program. And to be fair to Edwards, he’s been mostly up of late: He’s scored under 16 points just once in his last eight games, has averaged 26 points and 12.5 rebounds per contest over his last two outings, and is generally carrying the mail for the Dawgs.
But Georgia’s also just 2-6 in those last eight games, and Edwards generally isn’t getting his points efficiently, shooting just under 31 percent from three while taking more than seven per game and getting to the foul line less often than Kerry Blackshear Jr., who lacks most of Edwards’s athleticism.
Georgia also hasn’t beaten a top-50 team in KenPom all year — Florida, naturally, would be the first — and took losses to SEC basement denizens Ole Miss and Missouri in a recent four-game skid. While Georgia has done a fair bit of damage to Florida of late, winning three of its last four meetings with the Gators and the last two in Gainesville, there’s nothing to suggest that Florida shouldn’t be favored going into this game.
But with these Gators, maddeningly inconsistent from possession-to-possession at times, being favored doesn’t mean a whole lot. Barring an offensive explosion that is always possible, Florida will probably still need to keep Edwards in check — here is a job for Scottie Lewis to cape up for on Superhero Night at the O’Dome — and at least stalemate Georgia’s front line of Toumani Camara and Rayshaun Hammonds to win this game.