Men’s Basketball Preview: Florida Gators Vs. Alabama Crimson Tide – February 14, 2012

A two-loss week is not something you want on your resume this late in the season, but that’s just what the Florida Gators have. Last week, the Gators were blown out by the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats and followed up that loss with a defeat at the hands of the Tennessee Volunteers. With the next two on the road – including Tuesday night’s game against the Alabama Crimson Tide – Florida needs to make an impression and come away with two wins.

The Facts

Opponent: Alabama Crimson Tide
When: Tuesday, February 14, 2012 – 7:00 PM
Where: Tuscaloosa, AL
Television/Radio: ESPN, GatorVision
Records: Florida: 19-6 (7-3 SEC, 2-5 Away), Alabama: 16-8 (5-5 SEC, 10-2 Home)
Rankings: Florida: 12/14, Alabama: NR
Current Streak: Florida: L2, Alabama: L1
Point Spread: Florida -3.5
Over/Under: 132.5
Calculated Score: Florida 68-64
Points Scored: Florida: 78.8, Alabama: 66.1
Points Allowed: Florida: 65.9, Alabama: 58.3
Last Meeting: Florida 78-51 (March 1, 2011)

The Preview

This could be seen as a winner-takes-all game of sorts. Florida and Alabama only face each other once in the regular season and this Valentine’s Day matchup is it. There’s always the possibility of an SEC Tournament game between the two, but that hasn’t happened since the 2007-08 season when the NIT-bound Gators lost to the Crimson Tide.

This – like the last – is a must-win game for Florida, but with each building loss there becomes more truth to that statement. After dropping a second game to the Vols, the Gators need to rebound with a win or the NCAA Tournament selection committee is going to start to wonder exactly what to do with this Florida squad. Billy Donovan may need to have a heart-to-heart with his players if he hasn’t already. They need to realize what each loss does not only for their tourney prospects, but also for their confidence going forward. As more and more shots don’t fall, there’s a chance some of the younger players are questioning their abilities. Donovan needs to erase that thought from their minds and get them moving in the right direction. A convincing win over Alabama can do that.

Both squads will miss players for this game. The Gators will be without sophomore forward Will Yeguete and junior guard Mike Rosario due to injury while the Tide will miss suspended forwards senior JaMychal Green and junior Tony Mitchell. On paper, losing their leading scorers hurts Bama more, but Yeguete is a key part of Florida’s system and will be missed as someone that provides key minutes when sophomore forward/center Patric Young is on the bench.

It’s Donovan versus his former assistant Anthony Grant in a game both teams need to come out of victorious.

Preview: Alabama Crimson Tide @ #14 Florida Gators, 3/1, 7:00 PM

These two teams have faced each other for numerous SEC Championships on the gridiron and are now doing so on the court, sort of.  Alabama (19-9, 11-3 SEC) travels to #14 Florida (22-6, 11-3 SEC) for what equates to the conference’s regular season championship.  The teams have not faced each other yet this season and when they do on Tuesday night it will be bigger than expected.  Both teams have already locked up #1 seeds in the SEC Tournament for their respective divisions.

Both the Gators and the Crimson Tide are coming off of losses.  Florida fell to Kentucky on the road on Saturday and the same day Alabama dropped one to Ole Miss.  At the same time, both teams have played well recently, only totaling three losses each over the last two-plus months.  While the Gators have looked strong for most of the season (despite a loss to Jacksonville), the Tide appeared to be dead in the water early on before they tore through SEC play.  Both have identical conference records with only two games left in the regular season.
Bama’s forwards will be Florida’s biggest concern.  JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell are one and two on the Tide each averaging over 15 points per game and they also lead the team in rebounds.  Both average over 50% from the field.  No other Bama player averages over 10.3 points per game or shoots as well as they do.  They will be the scorers the Gators have to key on while on defense.  Of course going after the stars may leave others open; something that has caused Florida trouble in the past.
For Florida, it’s senior night.  Vernon Macklin, Chandler Parsons, and Alex Tyus will all be honored and need to show up for their final home game.  They will be tasked with stopping Green and Mitchell.  Who would have thought that over the course of their Gator careers, Parsons would have a bigger impact than high school teammate Nick Calathes?  No one, that’s who.  Also honored on senior night will be Adam Allen.  Allen hasn’t played in nearly three years after injuring his knee.  He will forgo his final year of eligibility to go out with classmates Parsons and Tyus.
Florida is guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Tournament at this point, but momentum is a funny thing.  After falling to the Wildcats and dropping a spot in the polls, the Gators need to get back on the winning track before tourney time.  Beating a solid Alabama team is the first step.  Florida can’t look ahead to the coming weeks.  It’s one game at a time.  And, oh yeah, that whole “just win” thing.