Florida vs. Kentucky: The 5 Best Subplots in SEC Showdown
On Saturday, Kentucky and Florida will square off in what could have been a battle for the SEC crown.
Only one team held up its end of the bargain.
Florida, ranked 11th in the AP Top 25, has clinched the SEC regular-season crown. Kentucky, after a loss to Georgia on Mar. 7, might not make the NCAA tournament.
That would be a first under John Calipari.
To earn their way back into the NCAA tournament, the Wildcats will need to beat Florida on Mar. 9.
Here are the five best subplots for this SEC showdown in Rupp Arena.
How Will Florida Approach the Game?
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images
Florida has won the SEC.
The Gators will attempt to play a spoiler role on Mar. 9. They have nothing to lose (aside from seeding in the NCAA tournament) and Kentucky has its entire season riding on this one game.
So how will Florida play? Will the Gators come in lax, or will they come in and prove, once again, they are the best team in the SEC this year?
Their mindset could determine the outcome of this game.
Billy Donovan has built a powerhouse in the SEC. He may flex his muscles on Saturday.
Can Kentucky Limit Turnovers?
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
When these two teams met in Gainesville on Feb. 12, Florida guards simply outplayed the Kentucky guards.
Florida is a team that loves to press. Kentucky seemed lost when attempting to break the Gators' press, resulting in 17 turnovers as a team.
Guard play has been the Achilles heel for this Kentucky team all season.
Florida's guards are the reason for their strong year.
Not a good combination for the Wildcats.
How Will Kentucky Fans React?
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Kentucky has been a letdown this season.
Big Blue Nation has been supportive for the most part. There are always bad eggs that reflect poorly on the fanbase as a whole, but most fans remain loyal.
Whether or not this year is an aberration will be known in the future. For now, we know that this is the worst season Kentucky fans have had to endure since Billy Gillispie was head coach.
Will Kentucky fans voice their frustration during this game, particularly if the Wildcats lose? What if Kentucky gets blown out at home to end the year?
Does Florida Have Too Many Weapons?
Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports
Six Gators scored when Florida walloped Kentucky earlier in the year.
All scored over nine points.
On the year, four Gators average over 10 points per game. None average more than 13. Billy Donovan's squad is balanced across the board.
Contrast that with the Kentucky defense, one that has seen better days.
Nerlens Noel was a defensive player of the year candidate, and his impact seems to have reached farther than first expected.
Florida simply has too many weapons for Kentucky to stop.
Can Kentucky Win?
Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports
The Mar. 9 forecast doesn't look bright for the Kentucky Wildcats.
But there's hope.
Kentucky beat Missouri at home. Missouri beat Florida at home. Florida has lost five games this year, all of which were neutral or road games.
It's not likely that Kentucky wins on Saturday. But the Wildcats are the bubble team to watch in this matchup.
A Kentucky win puts them right on the fringe of the NCAA tournament field.
A Florida win doesn't have the same implications—Kentucky would continue on its likely road to the NIT and the Gators would continue on their trek to a high seed in the NCAA tournament.
But can Kentucky pull the upset?