Home & away, Florida are simply too good of a team for Kentucky to handle. Too smart on the floor, with a better head coach on the sidelines. The face of one-and-done basketball, John Calipari, had his usual bag of excuses in the end, but that doesn’t offer the right kind of explanation of why his preseason number one team has looked so bad this season, beginning to look like recurring theme.
Kentucky had the excuse of missing Noel last year because of injury. This time? All the “super” Freshmen in the world who don’t feel like they want to stay around for another season couldn’t help this team be even remotley close to Florida through the SEC season or the two games between the teams. In Lexington it ended in a 10-point Gators win, but in Florida it was a lot more brutal right from the start, losing 84-65 after falling behind by much more very early in the game.
Once again the opposite of smart basketball from Kentucky meant that aside from points in the paint off of individual plays (only 10 assists) we weren’t going to see much from them. They shot 29.4% from outside the paint, comapred to 63.4% by Florida, having no problem slicing through the weak Wildcats defense. Kentucky did look better in the second half, but it was a lot about Florida simply taking their foot off the pedal instead of the Wildcats suddenly finding the right formula to win against a much better team.
And it comes down to this for Kentucky: When they’re able to crash the offensive glass and win those battles, they can play with anyone. They can make up for their defense, and very basic offensive sets, often looking jammed or stuck because no one coached them the right way, byt using that athleticism and talent (by some players) to get those second chance points. But against big and strong teams like Florida, even that one single advantage disappears, and it looks like from the point guard to the center and the bench, there isn’t an answer to be found for their flaws except the primitive “play harder.”
Florida is the first team in SEC history to win 18 conference games in a single-season and the fourth team from a major conference in the last 15 seasons to go undefeated in league play. Only the 2011-2012 Kentucky team, with Anthony Davis leading the way, aslo ended up winning the national title.
Florida lost only twice this season in non-conference games, both of them on the road: Wisconsin and a last second win by Connecticut. They had tough wins against Kansas (at home) and Memphis (neutral ground) to boast, but it’s hard to determine just how good they are because of the relative weakness in the SEC, as the two closest teams to them lost six games a piece.
Florida, unlike a lot of the big names in College Basketball this season, are led by seniors. It might mean it’ll be rough for them next year filling in for those gone, but it also means they’re more ready than anyone to finish the job this year. Patric Young led the way with 18 points and 7 rebounds, and out of all the teams and stars we’ve seen this season, this group seems to be more solid and well rounded in anyone else when trying to figure out who has the best chances of winning the national title.