It seems Kentucky coach John Calipari was a little premature in proclaiming his team the “most overanalyzed in sports” a week ago. UK's game Saturday has the potential to take the praise or criticism to epic levels.
No. 3 Florida travels to face No. 14 Kentucky in what could be oversimplified as a battle between experience and youth.
Let the (over)analyzing begin.
The Gators’ probable starters include four seniors who account for 57 percent of the team's scoring. Kentucky will likely stick with an all-freshmen starting lineup. Its rookies account for 79 percent of the team's scoring.
Kentucky’s freshmen aren’t the only ones who will be tested. As Florida freshman forward Chris Walker slowly gets acclimated to the lineup, Saturday’s environment will be a good barometer for what he’ll face in the postseason. Walker has played in only three games after being declared eligible two weeks ago.
The game’s outcome could be determined by a matchup of strength versus strength. Florida leads the SEC in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents to shoot just 39.3 percent from the field. The Wildcats lead the league with a 46.8 field goal percentage.
Kentucky has made its living from averaging 37.4 points in the paint and 17 second-chance points -- both are tops in the SEC. The Gators allow an SEC-low average of only 22.7 points in the paint and give up just 9.4 second-chance points.
Aside from looking through the prism of statistics, the Wildcats sure could use this win. The season has progressed past where the young team’s potential can compensate for shortcomings. It’s about production now.
The Wildcats beat Louisville, but lost to the other three ranked teams they faced: Michigan State, Baylor and North Carolina. (And the Bears and Tar Heels have long since been bounced from the polls.)
The Wildcats don’t have any horrific losses, but they can’t point to any marquee win outside of their rival game. They can change the narrative by beating the Gators. It would also ensure that UK remains the only school to post undefeated seasons in league play (1995-96, 2002-03, 2012-13) since LSU and UK tied for the title in 1953-54.
The Gators long surpassed the Wildcats as the SEC favorites and are a serious threat to go unbeaten in league play. They ride a 16-game win streak into Lexington and, if they win, will tie the school record for their longest single-season streak ever.
The two seasons the Gators posted 17-game win streaks ended with national championships in 2006 and 2007.