A must-win game for Florida?

If college basketball fans thought that the SEC would just fold up the tent, move out of Kentucky's way and just play for second, they should stop and think again.

If college basketball fans thought that the SEC would just fold up the tent, move out of Kentucky's way and just play for second, they should stop and think again.

Just one day after Georgia, just 8-6, came into Rupp Arena and played the Cats pretty well, the Tennessee Volunteers bumped off the number one team in the country and without one of its best players.

Georgia, having recently knocked off a ranked team in Georgia Tech (yes the same Yellowjackets team that just beat Duke), played surprising well against the Wildcats. Tennessee looked like anything but a fluke in a Sunday win against #1 and formerly undefeated Kansas. Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt can beat anyone on a given night. And then there's Florida.

The Tennessee win, combined with Georgia's tough game against Kentucky, will likely serve as inspiration to other SEC teams which have not lived up to preseason expectations, like Florida, a team which early on beat ranked Michigan State, only later to lose to Richmond and then at home to South Alabama.

The Gators, who were nationally- ranked in preseason, have already lost their SEC opener to Vanderbilt. A home loss to Kentucky next week would spell real trouble to coach Billy Donovan, who has relished his recent dominance over Kentucky. The Donovan-led Gators have beaten the Wildcats eight of their last ten meetings and have not lost to the Cats in Gainesville since 2004.

Before the season began, the away game with the Gators was looked at as one of Kentucky's stiffest challenges in its SEC schedule, and no one knows that more than Billy Donovan, who will likely promote the fact that Tennessee knocked off Kansas as a motivational tool to his players.

Although it's too early to be speaking of must-win games, this game is very pivotal for Florida. A win over Kentucky would be huge for the woefully inconsistent Gators. A win over Kentucky would put them right back into early contention for the SEC race and reestablish them as one of the premier teams in the SEC. A loss, however, puts them at 0-2 and last in the SEC East, a conference that has a long standing tradition of not allowing teams out of the cellar once they get there.

Kentucky is a better team and should win this game. However, the game means more to Florida and Donovan is good enough to use a strong sense of urgency to his advantage. Throw the rankings out the window in this meeting of SEC rivals – expect a barnburner of a game with the Cats narrowly escaping its first defeat.


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