The Florida Gators Basketball team (14-14, SEC 7-8) is set to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores (15-13, SEC 8-7) on Saturday in Gainesville.
New Stars for the Gators Basketball program
Florida will be looking to their freshman standout Riley Kugel to lead them to victory. Kugel has been on fire lately, averaging 17.2 points per game over the last five games.
His 24-point performance against Kentucky was the most by a Florida freshman since Noah Locke’s 27-point game against Texas A&M in 2019.
Another freshman, Aleks Szymczyk, has seen increased playing time recently. Logging 35 minutes over the last two games after playing just 15 minutes in the first 26 games of the season, Szymczyk has come on nicely.
Music City Advantage
Vanderbilt, on the other hand, will be looking to bounce back from their recent loss to LSU after a five-game winning streak. The Commodores have won their last three home games, beating Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Auburn in Memorial Gym in recent weeks.
The team is led by seven-footer Liam Robbins, who is averaging 15.4 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.2 blocked shots per game. Tyrin Lawrence is also averaging in double figures at 11.3 points per game. Ezra Manjon leads the team with 106 assists and 25 steals, while Myles Stute’s 65 made three-pointers pace the squad (.387).
For Florida, this game is crucial as they vie for an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament. They are currently ranked 57th in the NET rankings, which are used to determine NCAA tournament seeding. A win over Vanderbilt would be a step in the right direction for the Gators, who need to finish their season strong.
In terms of matchups, this game could come down to which team can impose their will on the defensive end. Florida has struggled defensively at times this season, allowing 72.6 points per game, which ranks 226th in the nation. Vanderbilt has been slightly better defensively, allowing 70.5 points per game, but they will need to contain Kugel and the rest of the Gators’ young and talented squad.
Overall, this game has the potential to be a close one, with both teams playing with something to prove. For Florida, a must-win for any chance at an at-large bid.