The Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles men’s basketball teams face somewhat similar challenges on Saturday. Both will be on the road to face teams they hammered at home just a few weeks ago.
Let’s be honest; the 13th-ranked Gators have the more difficult task, but the way FSU has played on the road over the last month, they will have their hands full as well.
Florida heads to Lexington, Ky. for a 2:00 p.m. tipoff to face a Wildcat team itching at the chance to get at them. The Gators humiliated Kentucky 88-66 on February 4 at the O’Connell Center.
Florida, especially Kasey Hill, shot lights out during the game prompting Kentucky Coach John Calipari to comment about guys like Hill “being better than they are.” Hill, his teammates and Coach Mike White know the challenge before them.
“I think we can go up there, and if we play really well, have a chance to win,” said White after Tuesday night’s victory over South Carolina. “I do. I think that. I think our guys think that, but everybody has got to be a little bit better.”
Few teams come into Rupp Arena and escape with a victory. The 11th-ranked Wildcats have lost two home games this year, but both were to top-10 teams UCLA and Kansas.
The stakes could not be higher. Both have identical 23-5 records and both are 13-2 in the conference. With only three SEC games remaining, the winner will likely become the league’s top seed in the SEC tournament.
“It will be difficult, and everybody’s better at home,” said White. “It’s a difficult challenge.”
For 19th-ranked Florida State, any road game is a monstrous challenge. At noon, they will face a Clemson squad they defeated by 48 points in Tallahassee just three weeks ago.
FSU was raining three-pointers on the Tigers in that game, but the shots have not been falling away from the Tucker Center for the Seminoles. Making free throws has also been a challenge.
While the crowd at Littlejohn Coliseum at Clemson is not Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium (FSU’s next stop next week), they can make it a tough place to play. This Clemson team has beaten a good Wake Forest team twice, won at South Carolina and lost a heart breaker at Duke just days after the debacle in Tallahassee.
“I’m glad we’re playing a game on the road this Saturday,” said Seminoles Coach Leonard Hamilton. “Let’s see if we can go on the road and play with that same level of confidence that we did (Monday).”
Hamilton was referring to Florida State’s last game, a 104-72 rout of Boston College in Tallahassee.
Because of their road woes, FSU has fallen into a four-way tie for second place in the ACC after once sharing the lead with North Carolina. Now standing at two games behind the Tar Heels, a regular season ACC title now seems highly unlikely.
“We’ve kinda dug a hole for ourselves,” said Hamilton. “Now we have to go on the road Saturday to see if we can duplicate (Monday’s) game.”