Originally Published: February 4, 2011

No. 11 Kentucky (16-5) at No. 23 Florida (17-5)

By Jay Bilas

When and where: Saturday (ESPN/ESPN3, 9 ET), Stephen C. O'Connell Center (Gainesville, Fla.)

Kentucky's best player: Terrence Jones. The long, athletic lefty is a super-talent that is still trying to figure it all out. In the meantime, he is putting up really impressive numbers and performances. Jones is leading Kentucky in scoring (17.9) and blocks (1.9) and is second in rebounding (9.0) offensive rebounds and steals (1.3). Jones is a very difficult matchup for the thin Gators.

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Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagesErving Walker sets the tone for Florida offensively.

Florida's best player: Erving Walker. The tiny point guard is a scorer first and leads the Gators in scoring, free throw attempts, steals and is second in assists. Walker is streaky, but he has shown the courage to step forward and take big shots, as evidenced by his game-tying 3 against Georgia.

Kentucky's best rebounder: Josh Harrellson. Averaging almost four offensive rebounds per game, Harrellson throws his big body around and is a really effective banger.

Florida's best rebounder: Chandler Parsons. As a perimeter player, Parsons is able to slice to the rim without having to bang around. He is often matched up with a smaller defender and takes advantage of it to the tune of a team-leading 7.5 rebounds per game.

Kentucky's best playmaker: Brandon Knight. The 6-foot-3 freshman combo guard has really grown on me. After turning the ball over too much early in the season, Knight has matured and continues to get better. Despite a low release point that has him shooting the ball right in front of his forehead, Knight is a really good shooter. John Calipari uses ballscreens to free Knight and when he gets an open shot, he usually knocks it down. Knight is averaging over 17 points, four rebounds and almost four assists per game, to go along with 3.4 turnovers.

Florida's best playmaker: Walker. Florida does a nice job with ballscreens, and will reverse the ball and ballscreen again. Florida is difficult to guard off of handoffs into ballscreens, and Walker gets very low and blasts off of screens very well.

Kentucky's X factor: Doron Lamb. This kid can really shoot it. Whether it is from range or off the bounce and inside the line, Lamb does a really nice job of working for the ball. He can catch-and-shoot, pull up, and when he gets his feet set, he drills it. Lamb averages 14 points per game, has hit 42 3s and shoots 51 percent from the floor and 48 percent from 3-point range.

Florida's X factor: Vernon Macklin. The senior averages 11.1 points and 6.3 rebounds and is a workhorse inside and on the glass. But Macklin does not shoot free throws well, hitting only 39 percent from the line.

Key stat: Turnovers and offensive rebounds. Florida needs to get out in transition and needs to get Kentucky playing at different speeds. If Florida can turn the Cats over, provide different looks, and play ahead of the defense, the Gators can win at home. Florida is not a great shooting team, so getting easy baskets in transition and getting offensive rebounds for easier second-chance opportunities will be critical. Kentucky has done a good job limiting turnovers and needs to attack the pressure to score and must be strong with the ball. Knight and Lamb should get opportunities from 3-point territory against the Gator press and as Kentucky passes ahead, skips it and drives it.

Who wins: Kentucky has more pure talent, but has not played its best on the road. I think that Florida's pressure, the crowd, and the ballscreen action the Gators run will win out in Gainesville, but barely.

More to track

By Andy Katz


Harvard at Princeton (ESPNU, 7 p.m. ET): This is the first of two Ivy League showdown games. Harvard comes in with the better overall profile but the onus is on the Crimson to win the conference by beating one of the traditional powers on the road. Cornell was able to do that to take its turn atop the conference in recent years. Now let's see if Harvard can do the same.


West Virginia at No. 12 Villanova (ESPN, noon ET): This isn't a bubble game like so many others this weekend, but it is one that will provide a little separation in the muddled middle of the pack behind Pitt in the Big East. The Mountaineers and Wildcats are both 6-3 in conference play, tied with Louisville and a half-game behind Notre Dame. The winner of this game keeps its league title hopes alive, while the loser gets stuck in the second tier.

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Bob Donnan/US PresswireBarnes has length and agility to go with sheer power from the wing.

Butler at Cleveland State (ESPN2, noon ET): The Bulldogs lost Thursday night at Youngstown State, while the Vikings beat Valparaiso to move atop the Horizon standings. Sure, Butler already knocked off Cleveland State at home. But right now it doesn't matter, as the Bulldogs are playing for seeding in the Horizon League tournament, where they'll have to win to return to the NCAA tournament. This is suddenly looking like a one-bid league.

St. John's at UCLA (CBS, 1 p.m. ET): The Red Storm have had a wild season so far but beating Duke at home last Sunday was certainly the highlight. It's hard to say bubble-bound St. John's is a marquee win, but a win over the Red Storm would complement the best win of the season for UCLA -- over BYU in Anaheim. How UCLA handles St. John's pressure will be the ultimate test for the Bruins. Neither team is that dominant inside.

Old Dominion at George Mason (2 p.m. ET): George Mason was selected for a marquee BracketBuster game at Northern Iowa because the Patriots are tied atop the Colonial with VCU, with ODU one game behind. Beat ODU and the Patriots can start to create some separation and perhaps set up a two-team race with themselves and VCU for the stretch run.

Memphis at Gonzaga (ESPN, 4 p.m. ET): The Tigers and Bulldogs were ranked in the preseason top 25 but are looking more like teams that need to win their respective conference tournaments to get a bid. The Tigers must find a way to defend the post against Robert Sacre and fare well on the backboard. Gonzaga has the better overall profile for a possible at-large, and beating Memphis would be another turn of the wheel in trying to convince the selection committee.

Kansas at Nebraska (ESPN3, 4 p.m. ET): The Jayhawks have looked sharp since their slip against Texas, dispatching Colorado on the road, Kansas State at home and winning at Texas Tech convincingly. Nebraska has been a pest and, the Cornhuskers gave Kansas quite a scare earlier this season. They will need an even better effort at home to finish the job. Nebraska would need a true home-court advantage to pull this off.

UNLV at BYU (4 p.m. ET): Jimmer Fredette scored 39 in an earlier win at UNLV. The Rebels have quietly won four of their past five to stay within striking distance of BYU and San Diego State.

Alabama at Tennessee (ESPN3, 5 p.m. ET): The Tide are now the best team in the SEC West, with only one blemish on their record. Tennessee has one more game to go with Bruce Pearl out; his eight-game SEC suspension ends after this home game. Alabama did nothing to warrant an at-large berth in nonconference play, but the Tide have already beaten Kentucky in the SEC. Take out Tennessee on the road and continue to steamroll in the West and maybe the Tide will get a longer look as a team that has improved and is only going to get better.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (ESPN3, 6 p.m. ET): Pitt already lost one home game in the Big East (to Notre Dame); I don't see how they'll lose another, and if they do, it won't be to Cincinnati. The Bearcats are certainly in play for an at-large berth, and a loss at Pitt won't dampen those prospects too drastically.


Michigan State at Wisconsin (CBS, 1 p.m. ET): Michigan State is reeling and Wisconsin still has a chance to catch Ohio State in the Big Ten if it continues to win, with two games remaining against the Buckeyes. The matchup of Kalin Lucas and Jordan Taylor is certainly intriguing, but the better question will be which team has the mental toughness to dominate the backboard. Neither team has a forceful post presence.

Ohio State at Minnesota (ESPN, 2 p.m. ET): The Golden Gophers suffered a setback with the road loss at Indiana. Al Nolen is still out with a broken foot, meaning the Gophers will need Chip Armelin to play well defensively and to stay in front of Aaron Craft. The bigs of Minnesota -- Trevor Mbakwe, Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson III -- can cause problems for Jared Sullinger, but this game will be won on the perimeter where the Buckeyes hold the advantage.

Florida State at North Carolina (FSN, 2 p.m. ET): Who is the second-best team in the ACC? Earlier in January the answer was Florida State. Now it doesn't look close as North Carolina has been the most consistent team in the conference, maybe even more than Duke so far. If UNC has visions of winning the ACC -- not a reach at this juncture -- then protecting its home court against Florida State is a must in advance of next week's game at Duke. Chris Singleton will have to be a scoring factor for Florida State to win. If he's on Harrison Barnes defensively, it could end up being Barnes' toughest night in the ACC.


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