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

Gator Hoops: The Week Ahead (Jan 20th)

Florida heads into a stretch of three games in five days that was forced by the postponement of the Ole Miss game back in December.

The Gators do so with some momentum, winning their last two conference games including a come-from-behind victory over Mississippi State.

That puts the Gators record at 11-6 and 2-3 in the SEC. Of course, the Colin Castleton situation leaves the Gators with a lot of uncertainty headed into the rest of the schedule.

But you had to like players like Tyree Appleby saying after the game that Florida needed to go back to the team that started the season 6-0.

That team looked like an NCAA Tournament lock. Now, Florida is a bubble team and the best way to get off the bubble is simple – win more games.

 

NET REPORT: The two wins jumped the Gators up to 40 in the NET Rankings. Florida is now a combined 4-4 in Quad 1 and Quad 2 games.

Vanderbilt at home won’t do you any favors, but it’s a must win because of the damage a loss could cause. Vandy is 86th in the NET.

Ole Miss on the road will help if you win because it’s away from home. But the Rebels NET is a dismal 133rd.

And there is the game at Tennessee where Florida could pick up some real value. Despite a blowout loss to Kentucky Saturday, the Vols are 13th in the NET.

 

UP NEXT, VANDERBILT: It feels like Scottie Pippen Jr. has been at Vanderbilt for seven years. Just last year, he scored 75 points in three games against the Gators. Of course, Florida won all three.

Pippen Jr. leads the SEC in scoring at 18.8 points a game and is also the leader for the Commodores (10-7, 2-3) in assists (3.1). Jordan Wight is the only other player on the team averaging in double figures and he also leads the team in rebounding.

Vandy will throw a lot of players at the Gators with 11 already logging more than 100 minutes of playing time this season. The game is in the O-Dome at 1 p.m. Saturday.

 

THEN, IT’S OLE MISS: The Rebels (9-8, 1-4) had a rough go of it in the non-conference part of the schedule and it hasn’t gotten any better since conference play began.

Ole Miss took Tennessee to overtime before losing in the conference opener and beat Mississippi State. But the Rebels will go into this game possibly facing a four-game losing streak if they lose the rematch Saturday at Miss. State.

This is another team that has struggled to find points, ranking 13th in scoring and only having two players averaging in double figures. Jarkel Joiner is at 13.6 per game and forward Nylser Brooks is fifth in the SEC in rebounding at 9.4.

The big deal here is that both teams will have a quick turnaround and Florida will be the one traveling. The game is in Oxford at 7 p.m. Monday.

 

AND ON TO TENNESSEE: The Vols have balance and a freshman in Kennedy Chandler who is fun to watch. They are led by Santiago Vescovi, who is averaging 14.0 points a game. Chandler is at 13.6.

Uros Plevsic is a 7-footer from Serbia who had 13 points and seven rebounds in a win over Vandy Tuesday night.

Tennessee is 12-5 and 3-3 in the SEC with losses to Alabama, LSU and a blowout loss to Kentucky where the Wildcats scored 107 points. A win over Arizona in the non-conference is a big part of the reason they are so high in the NET.

Tennessee has a home rematch with LSU Saturday and will have the benefit of more rest than the Gators.

 

LAST YEAR: Florida swept Vanderbilt, winning a game in the SEC Tournament after winning both regular season games.

The Gators beat Ole Miss at home 72-63.

Florida surprised Tennessee at home as well winning 75-49, But in a game postponed by safety protocols to the final Sunday of the regular season, the Vols won in Knoxville 65-54, then knocked the gators out of the SEC Tournament in the quarterfinals 78-66.

 

BOTTOM LINE: Certainly, these next two games are crucial for Florida as far as padding the resume. Winning in Knoxville is never easy, but even a 2-1 run in these three games would be good for Florida.

 

About Pat Dooley

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