After rising to #2 in both basketball polls last week, their highest since the 2006-2007 season, the Florida Gators promptly lost their first SEC game of the season getting blown out on the road at Arkansas. As a result, the Gators plummetted to #7 in this weeks AP poll and #6 in the USA Today coaches poll.
The Gators had been riding a ten game win streak since losing to Kansas State back in mid december and had been receiving mentions as a possible number one seed entering the NCAA tournament. The loss to Arkansas and the loss of leading rebounder and defensive specialist Will Yeguete, however, has apparently stopped that talk.
The loss to Arkansas, while no less shocking mostly because the way they were beaten handily on both sides of the ball, isn’t really as big a problem for the Gators as the loss of Yeguete. He does so many different things for the Gators with backside rebounding, providing length and athleticism on their press, and being disruptive defensively in the halfcourt.
With so many of the top teams losing last week, it is kind of shocking that they dropped as far as they did. Consider that after ten consecutive victories and eight to start the conference season, they were due for a letdown any day.
Arkansas is a team that plays particularly well at home. The Gators were forced to play most of the decisive first half without their starting frontcourt with Will Yeguete going only 65 seconds due to a knee problem and Patric Young and Erik Murphy getting into early foul trouble with an inconsistently called game by the referees. Add in the fact that Casey Prather was still struggling to get back to game speed coming off his high ankle sprain and you have the recipe for a big upset.
The Gators responded well to the loss coming back home to dominate SEC cellar dweller Mississippi State for the second time in two weeks. The schedule ramps up considerably on Tuesday though as defending SEC and NCAA tournament champion Kentucky invades the O’Connell Center for the first of two matchups this season for the bitter rivals. The Gators also close out the season on the road at Kentucky in a game that will certainly be important to both teams NCAA tournament fortunes.
Check out the full polls here.