Florida Basketball: Biggest Tests Remaining for Gators

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Florida Basketball: Biggest Tests Remaining for Gators
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Florida looks the part. The Gators have dominated opponents this season. With an overall mark of 18-2, including a perfect 8-0 in Southeastern Conference action, the Gators enter this week as the No. 2 team in the land, according to the AP Top 25 poll, and will be a handful for any opponent to match up against.

As we all know, any team can triumph on any given night in college basketball—and that’s the beauty of the sport. 

Piling up wins the rest of the way won’t be easy for the Gators, as a few tough matchups linger on the horizon for this veteran-led team. 

The Gators travel to Bud Walton Arena for a showdown with conference rival Arkansas on Feb. 5. Though the Razorbacks have dropped three of their last five contests, they boast an offense that averages 77 points per game.

Arkansas has been dominant on their home floor with a record of 13-3. Their last home loss was back on Nov. 30, falling to then No. 6 Syracuse, 91-82. At home, the Razorbacks have held opponents to 70 or fewer points in 10 games this season. 

Another team that could create havoc for Florida is Kentucky. A 15-6 overall mark isn't exactly perfect for head coach John Calipari, but the Wildcats are still very much alive at this point of the season. The Wildcats are shooting over 48 percent from the field and have won five of their last six games, including a 72-68 overtime thriller at Texas A&M on Feb. 2. 

Freshman forward Willie Cauley-Stein is shooting over 62 percent from the field, leading all Kentucky shooters in that department. It will be critical for the Florida defense to contain Cauler-Stein and the rest of the Kentucky offense. 

The Gators still have to face the Wildcats twice. The first meeting will be Feb. 12, with the second coming Mar. 9, the final game of the regular season for the Gators. 

The final team that could be troublesome for Florida is Missouri. The Tigers, led by head coach Frank Haith and senior forward Laurence Bowers, have had a successful run in their first year as a member of the SEC thus far, with a mark of 16-5 and 5-3 in conference action. 

The Tigers have won four of their last six games, including a 91-77 victory over Auburn on Feb. 2. Offensively, the Tigers average 76 points per game and swarm the glass, averaging 42 rebounds per contest. 

If the Gators can handle Arkansas, Kentucky and Missouri, then they will possess a load of confidence heading into the NCAA Tournament. 

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