Florida vs. Arkansas Basketball: Will Gators' Streak End in Tough Road Test?

Bruce HorovitzContributor IIIFebruary 5, 2013

February 2, 2013; Gainesville, FL, USA;Florida Gators guard Scottie Wilbekin (5) and guard Michael Frazier II (20) celebrate after the Gators beat the Ole Miss Rebels at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. The Gators won 78-64. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The  No. 2 Florida Gators, riding an 8-0 SEC record, face their toughest conference road game of the season against the Arkansas Razorbacks who are 13-1 this season at home in Bud Walton Arena.

The Gators (18-2, 8-0) haven’t lost a game since falling to Kansas State on the road on Dec. 22, 2012. More impressive has been the Gators’ domination during this streak, having defeated each of their eight conference opponents by an average of 26.5 points.

In Arkansas (13-8, 4-4) the Gators will encounter an opponent with a less than stellar overall record but a nearly unbeatable streak at home. The Razorbacks' only home loss was to No. 9 Syracuse, 91-82 on Nov. 30.  Against SEC opponents Arkansas is 4-0 with a 15.5 point margin of victory when playing at home.

Despite their recent success, the Gators could be primed for an upset. Their impressive win over 16th ranked Ole Miss on Saturday, coupled with losses by Michigan and Kansas, catapulted the Gators to a No. 2 ranking in this week’s college polls. With a win over Arkansas the Gators could be playing for a No. 1 ranking on Saturday in Gainesville against Mississippi State, depending on the outcome of No. 1 Indiana’s matchup at Illinois on Thursday.

The pressure to keep an undefeated conference streak alive against a team that plays as well as Arkansas does at home will test the Gators' mettle and focus. Perhaps that’s why the oddsmakers have installed the Gators as only a 10 ½ point favorite, less than half of their margin of victory against conference opponents.

Arkansas is led by guard BJ Young, who is averaging 16.7 points per game. Last year, Young torched the Gators defense with 31 points in a losing effort. The Razorbacks have an inside presence as well with junior forward Marshall Powell, who averages 15.3 points per game.

The Gators continue to feature a balanced attack with four of their five starters all averaging double figures. Guard Kenny Boynton leads all Florida scorers with 13.4 points per game, followed by forward Erik Murphy at 12.9 points per game.

The key to the Gators success has been their stingy defense, which gives up an average of 51.0 points per game and ranks second in NCAA scoring defense .

Florida coach Billy Donovan has done a superb job of keeping his team focused during this impressive 10-game winning streak, which has included victories over ranked teams Missouri and Ole Miss. Look for the Gators to maintain that focus against Arkansas as they move closer to an SEC championship and a likely No. 1 seed at the NCAA tournament.