Scenes from the Gators' game against the Florida State Seminoles on November 10, 2019, in Gainesville, Fla.

Gator Hoops: The Week Ahead

It doesn’t get any easier after Florida opened its SEC schedule a week late with a home loss to Alabama.

That’s part of the problem for a team with only one Quad One win (Ohio State) so far this season – the league is loaded with good teams but is Florida good enough to beat some of them for the Gators’ resume?

I’m not sure we have seen a team with as big a difference from its ceiling to its floor. We know where the floor is (a home loss to Texas Southern). Florida is going to have to hot the ceiling more often to qualify again for the NCAA Tournament.

NET REPORT: With the loss Wednesday night, Florida dropped seven spots in the very fluid NET Rankings, all the way down to 49. The opportunity is there over these next two games to get big wins because LSU is fifth and Auburn is sixth.

UP NEXT, AUBURN: The SEC didn’t do the Gators any favors with three straight games against ranked teams and the next one might be the most difficult to handle. Auburn under Bruce Pearl has created an environment that may have surpassed the O-Dome as being the toughest place to play in the conference.

You’ll want to tune in (8 p.m.) to watch Jabari Smith, the 6-foot-10 freshman forward who could very well be the first pick in the next NBA Draft. Five times he has scored 20 or more points and four times 10 or more rebounds. And he is skilled with the ball and can knock down threes with the best of them.

It will be quite a challenge for the Gators and likely Anthony Duruji will draw the assignment for slowing him down. Auburn (13-1, 2-0) has plenty of other weapons, including Wendell Green Jr., who came off the bench to score 22 against South Carolina and is averaging 16.0 in his last six games.

THEN, IT’S LSU: At home (7 p.m.), at least. Florida faces an LSU team that has only one loss and that was to Auburn.

The Tigers are led by Tari Eason, who is one of those guys who plays hard and at the end of the day his box score is stuffed with hustle. He averages 15.6 points a game. Veteran Darius Days averages 14.3.

LSU is fourth in the SEC in scoring and can come at you in a variety of ways.

LAST YEAR: Florida beat Auburn in what might have been the best game the Gators played last season. It was 74-57 at Auburn (only 1,824 in attendance because of COVID) and Florida jumped out to a 44-22 halftime lead. First round draft pick Rey Mann had 19 points and 13 rebounds in the game and Scottie Lewis was on a mini-roll at that time with a 16-point performance.

Florida also beat LSU, although the second game of the series to be played there was canceled because of COVID. The Gators won in Gainesville 83-79 as Colin Castletin scored 21 and Mann had 19. Three LSDU players scored in the 20s (they are all gone), while the rest of the team scored a total of 10 points.

BOTTOM LINE: Florida must split these two games, some way, somehow. An 0-3 start in conference play would not be a good way to start the SEC season.

About Pat Dooley

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