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Florida vs. West Virginia, Game Thread: Can Gators summit the Mountaineers?

Florida has a chance to take a pelt in hill country.

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Want a simple setup for Florida’s meeting with West Virginia in this year’s edition of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge?

If Florida plays like it did against Tennessee, Georgia, and in its first 30 minutes against Vanderbilt, the Gators have a really good chance of going into Morgantown and coming out with a significant victory.

If not, those country roads back to the airport are going to be lonely.

Florida has had significant successes in the SEC and Big 12’s annual non-conference competition, and beat West Virginia handily back in 2017 in Gainesville. Add another win over the Mountaineers in a neutral-site game in 2018, and Florida’s actually 2-0 against Bob Huggins’s squad under Mike White.

Of course, the Gators also had point guards — Chris Chiozza and Andrew Nembhard — to stand up to the “Press Virginia” defense that the Mountaineers deployed in those meetings. Tre Mann and Tyree Appleby, dynamic as they are, are more turnover-prone, and forcing turnovers is a good way to beat these Gators.

Except this isn’t Press Virginia: It’s a Big 12 bully that goes hard on the offensive glass, even without the departed-for-Kentucky Oscar Tshiebwe, and a team that relies on those second shots to get good offensive opportunities, given how inefficient virtually every contributor other than Miles McBride and Taz Sherman, keen-eyed snipers both, can be.

West Virginia’s pretty clearly an NCAA Tournament team, and its latest win over Texas Tech was maybe its biggest of the year, but the Mountaineers haven’t broken through with a big win on a Saturday just yet, dropping meetings with Oklahoma and Texas.

Florida coming to town gives the Mountaineers to beat a brand-name program, even if Florida isn’t the best version of itself. But the Gators have a valuable opportunity on this day, too. This game may come down to which team does more seizing of the moment.