Biggest Home Game In Four Years

The Florida Gator basketball team has not had a lot of really big games recently. Ever since the "oh-fours" captured their second consecutive NCAA Tournament title and rode off into the sunset Florida has been pretty much a middle-of-the-pack program. The Gators have been one of the 60 or so best teams in the country, but not much higher than that.

It could all change late Saturday night. Florida's game with the Kentucky Wildcats has to be viewed as the biggest game in the O'Dome in the past four seasons, and there are several seasons why.

SEC Championship Contention ---- The truth is that Florida has not been a threat to win an SEC Championships in the previous three seasons. In fact, the Gators have been at least four games behind the league champ each time. However with every SEC team exhibiting flaws this time around a league title is a real possibility. Florida is atop the SEC East at the midpoint of the season and just a half game back of Alabama for the overall conference title. Saturday offers the Gators a huge opportunity to prove they are contenders.

It's Kentucky ---- No matter who the coach is, no matter what the personnel or standings the SEC Title journey always runs through Lexington. When you host Kentucky it guarantees you a packed gym and an energized student body. This year it also offers Florida the opportunity to hand "Big Blue" its fourth SEC loss and a two and a half game bulge in the SEC East.

The Four-Letter Network ---- Like it or not ESPN is the king-maker in college sports in general and college basketball in particular. With "Game Day" coming to the O'Dome it creates a buzz that tops any other. The country including scores of impressionable young basketball players will have their eyes on Gainesville Saturday morning and again Saturday night. This is a special opportunity to impress.

Senior Moments ---- Vernon Macklin has played like a man on a mission most of the season. Lately Chandler Parsons has been playing the best basketball of his Gator career. If this game can get Alex Tyus to do the same it could give Florida great momentum for the rest of the regular season.

Bye-Bye Bubble ---- Three years of sweating out Selection Sunday is more than enough. Florida, it turns out didn't need to sweat as much last year, but the Gators still were uncertain that their dance card had been punched. Right now the Gators enjoy solid rankings of No. 17 in the Inside RPI and No. 36 in Kentucky is in both top tens. A win over the Wildcats carries extra weight in the meeting room and would all but assure the Gators of a return to the NCAA event.

Obviously the Gators still control their own destiny in the SEC whether they win this one or not, but the confidence and momentum needed to be a championship team is much less likely to be there. Just as a loss eliminates nothing from the Gators wish list, a win guarantees nothing. That's the nature of college basketball. That doesn't change the reality that this is the biggest game the Gators have hosted in a long, long time.

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