While there's little doubt at this point in the season as to who many believe to be the best team in the country as top-ranked Kentucky (23-1, 9-0) is the unanimous selection in both major polls, some doubt can be added to the SEC race should #7 Florida (19-4, 7-1) win in Lexington on Tuesday night.
These are the two best teams in the SEC in both the standings and from a talent standpoint, which should make for a fun contest. This is Florida's third shot at a team ranked in the Top 5 of the polls this season, with the prior two contests both being losses on the road (Ohio State and Syracuse).
The Gators rely heavily on a perimeter attack led by a pair of veterans in senior Erving Walker (12.6 ppg, 5.1 apg, 2.9 rpg) and junior Kenny Boynton (17.6 ppg, 2.8 apg, 2.4 rpg). But while these two tend to take the majority of the shots, Florida's best option when it comes to sustained success in March could be the play of freshman Bradley Beal (14.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg).
The McDonald's All-American can do just about anything on the floor that head coach Billy Donovan asks of him, with the issue at this stage him not being as assertive on the offensive end as many would hope. But Beal's improved in this area as well, and with his skill set could be the Gators' best bet for a huge bucket as the games become even more important.
Kentucky's no slouch on the perimeter either as they feature a nice mix of youth and experience at the two positions. Doron Lamb (13.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg) and Darius Miller (10.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.2 apg) are the experienced members of the trio, with Lamb second on the team in scoring and Miller being one of the first reserves off the bench thanks to his ability as a defender.
Running the show is freshman Marquis Teague (9.6 ppg, 4.3 apg), and as with any team handing over the reins to a newcomer it can be a roller coaster with the Indianapolis native within the course of a game. But to be fair he does boast the best assist-to-turnover ratio of the three, who according to head coach John Calipari also need to chip in a bit more on the glass.
To be fair the Wildcat guards fall into the trap of watching one of the nation's best front courts go to work instead of following up with the effort needed to get that done. And with the trio of Anthony Davis (13.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg, 4.8 bpg), Terrence Jones (12.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (12.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg) there it's easy to take for granted the effort needed to be a good defensive team. Davis is a departure from the stereotypical shot blocker that tends to lead the nation in the category as he's more than capable of defending on the perimeter as well.
This could prove beneficial in a matchup with Florida's Erik Murphy (10.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg), as Murphy is more comfortable on the perimeter than he is banging inside. That task is left to Patric Young (10.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Will Yeguete, with the former being a possible matchup issue for the slender UK big men...provided Florida get Young enough touches inside. Davis and Kidd-Gilchrist are two big reasons why Kentucky is the best in the SEC in both field goal and three-point percentage defense, and Florida will need to limit their impact (on both ends of the floor) if they're to entertain any thoughts of winning at Rupp Arena.
Purdue visits Ohio State in a game that's important for both teams, albeit for different reasons. Thad Matta's Buckeyes are looking to remain on top of the Big Ten standings while the Boilermakers are looking to both improve their resume and bounce back from a disappointing loss to rival Indiana on Saturday night. Point guard play will be critical for both teams, but how the Boilers go about defending Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas inside will determine whether or not the game is close late.
Iowa State and Oklahoma State are both in position to play their way into an NCAA bid, making the battle between the two in Stillwater all the more impotant. Royce White has led the way for the Cyclones from the point, and having a 6'9" forward capable of doing so can prove problematice for Iowa State's opponents. And Maryland visits Clemson with both teams in dire need of a victory to keep alive tournament hopes that may be slipping away. Sophomore guard Terrell Stoglin could be the ACC's best scorer but he and the rest of the Terrapins need to be more active defensively if they're to go dancing.
Top 25 Games
7:00 PM (7) Florida at (1) Kentucky (ESPN)
9:00 PM Purdue at (3) Ohio State (ESPN)
8:05 PM (15) Creighton at Evansville
NCAA Division I Games
6:00 PM Mid-Continent College at Eastern Kentucky
7:00 PM Iowa State at Oklahoma State (ESPN2)
7:00 PM Maryland at Clemson (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Campbell at Coastal Carolina
7:00 PM Hartford at UMBC
8:00 PM Providence at Villanova (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Texas Tech at Kansas State (ESPN3)
8:05 PM IPFW at Chicago State
9:00 PM Alabama at Auburn (ESPNU)
10:05 PM Seattle at Idaho