No. 1 Kentucky and No. 7 Florida have battled for control of the SEC on the hardwood for the better part of a decade. On Tuesday, their rivalry is renewed for the first time in the 2011-12 season, with Billy Donovan's Gators traveling to Lexington to meet the top-ranked Wildcats at Rupp Arena.
Kentucky is possibly both the nation's highest-ranked team and its hottest. The Wildcats have won 15 straight games, only three by single digits, and have decimated their last four foes, winning by an average of 24 points per contest. John Calipari's Wildcats are anchored by Anthony Davis, who combines a tremendously efficient low-post game with superb defense; Davis, considered the prohibitive favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, records a block on nearly a sixth of his defensive possessions, the second-best rate in the country, and is first in the nation in Offensive Rating, Ken Pomeroy's statistic for overall offensive effectiveness and efficiency. Davis isn't alone, though: slasher extraordinaire Michael Kidd-Gilchrist roams the wings with sniper Doron Lamb, and talented forward Terrence Jones joins Davis underneath. Marquis Teague, a highly-touted point guard, is no worse than good — and is unquestionably the weak link of the Kentucky starting lineup.
Florida will have to counter the taller, more talented 'Cats with their usual long-range assault. The Gators have made more threes, 241, than any other team in the nation, and are a full 14 trifectas ahead of second-place Coppin State. Guards Kenny Boynton (77 threes, tied for fourth in the country), Erving Walker (48 makes), and Bradley Beal (40 makes) take most of those threes, but are joined by four teammates who shoot better than 34 percent from distance, including Erik Murphy, who has made a surprising 46 percent of his threes in 2011-12 despite taking just 30 threes total in his first two years as a Gator. Beal, a do-everything freshman is also a capable rebounder, helping make up for Murphy's deficiencies down low, but the Gators' frontcourt is likely to have problems with Kentucky's: Patric Young is at a height disadvantage to Davis and dealing with a nagging ankle injury, and Will Yeguete's energetic, hustle-heavy game likely to be somewhat mitigated by the Wildcats' athleticism.
The Kentucky-Florida game will tip off at 7 p.m. Eastern from Rupp Arena, and will be televised nationally by ESPN.