The Vols are 5-1 versus the Gators during the Bruce Pearl era. That, coupled with the home-floor advantage, should suggest tonight will be a good one for Tennessee. As UT fans are acutely aware, however, the Vols' home-floor advantage has vanished. On the heels of a 37-game home winning streak, they have dropped four of their last five outings at Thompson-Boling.
Moreover, while Tennessee (12-7 overall, 3-2 SEC) is chasing its tail, Florida (18-3, 5-1) is chasing a conference title, having won 12 of its last 13 games.
Leading the 2008-09 Gators is Nick Calathes, a 6-6 sophomore who might be the SEC's most versatile player. He leads Florida in points (17.8 per game) and leads the league in assists (6.6 per game). He also pulls down 5.4 rebounds per game, an amazing total for a backcourt player.
Florida's other starters are 6-8 220-pound sophomore Alex Tyus (12.3 points, 6.3 rebounds per game), 6-9 213-pound Chandler Parsons (10.0 points, 5.6 rebounds), 6-8 230-pound junior Dan Werner (9.2 points, 4.3 rebounds) and 6-0 170-pound senior Walter Hodge (7.7 points, 2.5 assists).
The last meeting between Tennessee and Florida – March, 5, 2008 in Gainesville – was a classic. The Gators made their first nine field-goal attempts en route to a 35-19 lead with nine minutes left in the first half. Tennessee kept chipping away, however, and somehow slipped out of the O'Connell Center with an 89-86 victory.
The Vols are hoping tonight's rematch will be a lower-scoring affair. That's because the Big Orange is 0-5 this season when its opponent scores 80 or more points, compared to 12-2 when the foe scores less than 80.
The game will be nationally televised by ESPN. It represents UT's sixth appearance on national TV this month.