This year’s Florida Gators are something to behold. They have eclipsed pretty much every school-record as a team and they have a cohesiveness much like the Oh-Fours – Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer, and Taurean Green. Now they’ve accomplished something that hasn’t happened since that group of Gators were around in 2007: A number one ranking. This is the latest in the regular season that the Gators have held the top-ranked spot in men’s basketball and also the best start in UF history (25-2), eclipsing that ’07 team (24-3). But we all know that it’s not how you start; It’s how your finish.
Florida (25-2, 14-0 SEC) heads to Nashville tonight to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores (15-11, 7-7 SEC). The last time the Gators and ‘Dores played when Florida was number one? 2007, when an unranked Vandy team upset the top-ranked Florida team in February at Memorial Gymnasium. The Gators are looking to avoid repeating history as this years team has bettered that national championship team in many ways. The ’14′s have won 19 straight, 14 straight in SEC play, and, maybe the most important for tonight’s game, are 7-0 in conference on the road. All those streaks are school records and Florida has a chance to add another notch in their belt tonight: Their 15th SEC win, which would be a school-record, would clinch at least a share of the SEC regular season championship.
Florida’s coming off of a tough week where they survived Auburn and escaped Ole Miss. But they kept on winning to gain that top-ranking and move into a slot for the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, has struggled this season. They’ve split their last six games against some middling competition. But they’re always tough at Memorial Gymnasium, where they’re 10-4 this season. The last time Florida played at Vandy, the Commodores upset the Gators in 2012.
Vanderbilt leads the all-time series 64-61, but, as with most teams in the SEC, Florida owns a 23-12 mark since Billy Donovan became head coach. Donovan hasn’t had great success at Memorial Gym, posting a 7-9 record with the Gators having only a 16-44 record overall at Vandy. Florida has won five of the last six games versus the ‘Dores, but lost their last meeting in Nashville. This is the second straight year Florida and Vanderbilt meet only once during the regular season after facing each other twice for 47 years.
Florida’s probable starters include senior forwards Will Yeguete and Casey Prather, senior center Patric Young, senior guard Scottie Wilbekin and sophomore guard Michael Frazier II. Vanderbilt will likely start senior forward Rod Odom, redshirt junior forward James Siakam, freshman center Damian Jones, senior guard Kyle Fuller, and junior guard Dai-Jon Parker.
Tip-off is set for 7 pm on ESPN with Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Jimmy Dykes (color analyst), and Shannon Spake (reporter). If you can’t get to a TV, you can watch it streaming on the WatchESPN app or online. You can also listen to it on the Gator IMG Sports Network and on satellite radio with the “Voice of the Gators”, Mick Hubert and Mark Wise.