No. 3 Florida and No. 14 Kentucky are set for a Saturday night showdown in Rupp Arena, but the game will be more of a proving ground for the Wildcats than it will be for the Gators.
Riding a 16-game win streak, Florida currently holds a two-game lead against Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference and a lead of at least four games against every other SEC team. A win for the Gators and they extend their lead while sweeping a challenging week. A loss for the Wildcats and the fingernails they're holding on to regular season conference title hopes by begin to break off.
Either way, Florida is cruising. It has been 72 days since the Gators last lost a game and that came on a last-second tip/shot combination that even Billy Donovan called fluky. Their only other loss came with two regular contributors suspended, including senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin.
Winning with defense and timely offense, Florida is now something of a machine, well-oiled and directed by a unique four-senior starting lineup. In many ways, the Gators are miles ahead of the competition in the SEC and simply trying to perfect their art before the competition escalates in March.
Kentucky will present a welcomed fierce challenge, especially in a building where Florida has lost six in a row. How much it means in the grand picture is a different story. The Gators have established themselves as one of the nation's elite teams.
Florida is currently projected unanimously as a No. 1 seed, listed as such by Yahoo Sports, ESPN and USA Today. A No. 1 seed would almost certainly mean the Gators traveling down the Florida Turnpike to Orlando for the opening of the tournament. Florida is currently rated No. 4 in RPI, hampered a bit by playing a weaker schedule than seven of the top-10 RPI teams.
WINS (22 overall, 11 SEC)
(49) Tennessee (2x)
(63) Florida State
(90) Middle Tennessee State
(104) Alabama (2x)
(143) Texas A&M
(161) Fresno State
(166) Arkansas-Little Rock
(170) Mississippi State
(176) South Carolina
(201) North Florida
(312) Savannah State
THESE WINS WILL HELP
Tennessee 67-41, 67-58
LOSSES (2 overall, 0 SEC)
THESE LOSSES WILL HURT
vs. RPI 1-50: 6-2
vs. RPI 51-100: 3-0
vs. RPI 101-150: 4-0
vs. RPI 151-200: 6-0
vs. RPI 201+: 3-0
Feb. 15 - at Kentucky (10)
Feb. 19 - Auburn (158)
Feb. 22 - at Ole Miss (62)
Feb. 25 - at Vanderbilt (86)
March 1 - LSU (60)
March 4 - at South Carolina (176)
March 8 - Kentucky (10)
KEEP AN EYE ON
Florida will be competing with the following schools for positioning in the NCAA Tournament. Included are the next two games for each team:
Kansas (TCU, at Texas Tech)
Syracuse (at Pittsburgh, North Carolina State)
Arizona (at Arizona State, at Utah)
Wichita State (at Evansville, at Loyola Chicago)
Villanova (at DePaul, at Creighton)
Michigan State (Northwestern, Nebraska)
Duke (at North Carolina, Maryland)
San Diego State (Air Force, Utah State)