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Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Saddle Up: Get ready for an SEC war

By Myron Medcalf

Saddle Up is our semidaily preview of the night's best basketball action.

No. 7 Florida at No. 1 Kentucky (7 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN3.com): I was enthralled by Florida’s 73-65 win over a talented Vanderbilt team Saturday. During the game, I really wasn’t analyzing the Gators’ performance against the Commodores as much I was mentally projecting their chances of upsetting Kentucky on Tuesday night with their diverse backcourt.

Can Florida spread the floor and disrupt Kentucky’s stubborn defense? Can the Gators do anything to interrupt Kentucky’s “that’s not even fair” offensive attack?

I don’t know, but I think they’re Kentucky’s greatest threats in the SEC. If, if, if the Gators can hit 3s (36.5 percent, 167 attempts) and challenge every Kentucky run, perhaps they’ll have a shot at the upset in Lexington.

Bradley Beal has been a star during Florida’s seven-game winning streak. Beal has averaged 17.3 ppg and 7.3 rpg in his past three outings. He alone, however, can’t overtake this terrific team.

It’s tough to find many flaws with this Kentucky squad. The Wildcats have the SEC’s top scoring offense (71.9 ppg) and scoring defense (56.4 ppg allowed). In Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, they’re ranked fourth and seventh in adjusted offensive efficiency and adjusted defensive efficiency, respectively.

The Wildcats have the best player in America in Anthony Davis (13.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 4.8 bpg). And as John Gasaway suggests in this story, this might be John Calipari’s best team. It’s definitely his best Kentucky team. Kentucky’s SEC opponents have connected on only 39.7 percent of their 2-point attempts, and they’ve been outscored by the Wildcats by .28 of a point per possession.

Some unknowns, however, remain about the Wildcats because they’ve played one of the SEC’s easiest conference slates to date. But that’s all going to change starting with the matchup against the Gators.

The Wildcats will face Florida twice, Vanderbilt twice and Mississippi State once in their final seven conference games. If they’re vulnerable in any area, their upcoming stretch will expose those weaknesses.

But there’s also a chance that Kentucky might prove to be even more dominant than we’d realized during the easier portion of their SEC schedule.

In the words of Terrell Owens, get your popcorn ready.