Florida Gators Preview Capsule
SBNation Blog: Alligator Army
Record: 17-6 (6-3)
Team Strengths: Scoring Defense, 3FG Defense, Turnover Margin
Team Weaknesses: 3FG Shooting
Season Thus Far: The Gators have been an up-and-down team for much of the year. One week, they're beating Michigan State; soon after, they're losing to South Alabama. They started SEC play 0-2, but now they're 6-3, with the one additional loss coming by one point at Tennessee. Their style of play even seems uneven; early in the year, defense was a problem; now, they're playing great D. Overall, though, this seems to be a talented if underachieving team that is inching closer and closer to being a tourney lock.
What to Expect: The Gators are still a team that plays a bit smaller than you would expect; despite featuring a tall frontline, their leading scorer is PG Kenny Boynton and they're not a team that tends to dominate the post. That may be changing, though, as C Vernon Macklin continues to exert himself. Macklin is quickly becoming a major player for the Gators, and the Gamecocks will have to find a way to stop both him and F Alex Tyus. Staying out of foul trouble will be important here; the Gamecocks have been having trouble lately with keeping their big men off the bench.
Another key will be the play of Devan Downey. Downey has a minor ankle roll coming into this game. Look for Erving Walker and Boynton to challenge Downey early and see if he can keep up.
Finally, three point shooting is of the utmost important for us. Teams are figuring out more and more ways to keep Downey from getting to the basket. The only remedy for this is for Downey's kick-out options to start making some shots. Luckily for us, the Gators have trouble defending the perimeter at times.
Prediction: I liked our chances before learning about Downey's injury, but I now worry that he's going to get taken advantage of by Florida's guards and that he'll tire throughout the game. If that happens, we're in trouble. On the other hand, we tend to play our best against the Gators, and maybe Downey--who has been known to do so--can pull off a miracle. I'm thinking it's unlikely, though, and am predicting a 3-6 point Gators victory.
What It Means: The world, really, as I don't think we can go to 4-5 in the SEC and still get enough victories to make the NCAAs. Downey's injury came at the worst possible time.