When their men’s basketball teams meet in the winter, it’s usually a lower-key affair — but this Saturday (2 p.m., ESPN2 or WatchESPN), with both teams coming off surprising victories, it’s a chance for either one to accelerate in the SEC race.
Florida’s wild win this week was also a dominant one: The Gators all but ran top-10 Tennessee off the floor, jumping 12 spots in Ken Pomeroy’s efficiency-based rankings to No. 25 as a result. And that game came without Colin Castleton or Scottie Lewis suiting up for Florida; while the Gators will again be missing Lewis due to health and safety protocols — and, obviously, Keyontae Johnson — they will get their big man back, though his efficacy coming off an ankle sprain suffered last Saturday is in doubt.
Georgia’s win was both closer and less impressive. The Bulldogs did clamp down and lock in late to defeat Kentucky on a bucket off an inbounds play in Athens on Wednesday, but these are Wildcats that — outside of their bravura performance in Gainesville a fortnight ago — have scarcely looked like a decent team, much less an NCAA Tournament-caliber one.
And Georgia doesn’t look like that sort of team, either. They larded their non-conference schedule with easy wins, which is how they ended up with a 7-0 mark and no victory more impressive than one over a Cincinnati program that has really struggled in John Brannen’s second year of replacing Mick Cronin. Tom Crean’s Dawgs then lost their first four SEC tilts — getting walloped by Arkansas and Auburn in the latter two — before recovering to knock off Ole Miss and Kentucky in their last two games.
Other than tempo — which comes via a bunch of steals and relentless running that also translates on the offensive boards — it’s hard to see what this Georgia team is truly good at. Of significant contributors, only Justin Kier and P.J. Horne are shooting better than 30 percent from three; while K.D. Johnson’s made eight of his 14 threes, he’s also only played three games. And though Georgia gets after it on the offensive boards, it does so with speed and numbers that aren’t height, with Toumani Camara and Andrew Garcia sure to give up inches to whichever of Castleton or Omar Payne they see inside.
And if Georgia couldn’t take down Florida in two meetings with 2020 NBA Draft headliner Anthony Edwards, a less starry bunch seems unlikely to do so, either.