On this second meeting of the 2022-23 season, the Florida Gators and Kentucky Wildcats are even more like ships passing in the night than they were in early February.
Back then, the Gators were scratching and clawing — Colin Castleton doing this more than most — for NCAA Tournament footing. Losing at Rupp Arena, even with Castleton putting on one of his best performances, made that footing essentially too sandy to stand on, and Florida’s play since — even in games with Castleton around — has made making the field of 68 a pipe dream.
Kentucky, meanwhile, may have saved its season that night. The Wildcats followed that win with two losses thanks to some critical injuries, yes, but winning over Florida prevented a more damaging stretch that might have torpedoed their season for good.
Furthermore, they learned a bit about how to win without Oscar Tshiebwe’s best — and more about how good they can be with their full complement of contributors, which helped them gut out a road win at Mississippi State and handle Tennessee for the second time in their last two outings.
Now, without Castleton available and with Tshiebwe back in form, Kentucky seems like more than a match for Florida.
But if the Gators wanted to summon the sort of effort that Kentucky put forth in Lexington, they could do plenty to help the Big Blue ship take on water.