Florida braces for 'huge discrepancy' against No. 1 Kentucky
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida coach Billy Donovan has one of his worst teams in years, a near-.500 group that doesn't do anything particularly well. Kentucky's John Calipari has one of his best, a deep, talented and undefeated crew that's shown few, if any, weaknesses all season.
It looks like a major mismatch.
Donovan sure feels that way.
''Oh, I think there's a huge discrepancy,'' Donovan said as the Gators (12-10, 5-4 Southeastern Conference) prepare to host the top-ranked Wildcats (22-0, 9-0) on Saturday night. ''How much of a gap? I don't know how you would evaluate that. But I would say their talent level is better than anybody in the country right now, with the number of guys they have.
''But I wouldn't say it's just our team. It's everybody.''
Florida matched up with Kentucky better than anyone last season, winning in Lexington, in Gainesville and in the SEC tournament championship game.
Both teams advanced to the Final Four and could have met in the title game, but eventual national champion UConn ended both team's seasons.
The Wildcats and Gators have gone in different directions since.
Kentucky returned nearly everyone, added the nation's top recruiting class and quickly figured out how to play together. The Cats have won 18 of 22 games by double digits.
''A friend called me this morning and said, `Someone went on one of the shows and said Kentucky is not that good offensively.''' Calipari said. ''Really? We're like ninth in the country in efficiency. We have 100 more assists than turnovers. We're leading our league in 3-point shooting, or were. We have great post presence. Not always great.
''But here's the thing that's hard for people to deal with: We're not perfect. We're not shooting 88 percent, 99 from the free-throw line. We don't rebound every missed shot, which is crazy. I don't know why we don't. I'm on these guys about it. You need to be perfect. You're Kentucky. Be perfect. We're ninth in offense efficiency and that's our issue. Wow, I'm happy if that's our issue.''
Florida has plenty of issues.
The Gators have been erratic on both ends of the court - a significant change from last year's senior-laden team - and have gotten little from highly touted sophomores Kasey Hill and Chris Walker. They have dropped four of six since a three-game winning streak to open conference play, and the two wins easily could have been losses.
The Gators' effort ''has to be a lot better, no matter who we're playing,'' Florida forward Jake Kurtz said. ''That's got to be better if we want to beat anybody. It's a mindset that we have to buy into as a team, `This is what we're going to do.'''
Florida became the first team in SEC history to go 18-0 in league play last season, and Kentucky surely hasn't forgotten its failed attempts to end the run.
''I don't even think that's in anybody's head, for real,'' Kentucky forward Willie Cauley-Stein said. ''I just thought about it now, just with you saying it. But honestly it's about going and playing against ourselves. We're not really playing against nobody else. We're trying to compete against ourselves and do what our team goals are and stuff.''