Jan 25, 2014; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators guard Scottie Wilbekin (5) defends Tennessee Volunteers guard Jordan McRae (52) during the game at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Mandatory Credit: ©Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports

Florida Gators vs. Tennessee Volunteers: Round 3 in SEC Semifinals

The top-ranked Florida Gators (30-2, 18-0 SEC) will meet the bubblicious Tennessee Volunteers (21-11, 11-7 SEC) in the SEC Tournament Semifinals. Scottie Wilbekin fueled Florida past Missouri and Tennessee defeated the cinderella 13-seed South Carolina Gamecocks 59-44 in the Quarterfinals. Now the two teams will meet for the third time this season with a berth into the conference championship game on the line. The Gators took the first game handily in Gainesville, and clamped down in the second half to beat the Vols in Knoxville.

Florida’s win over Missouri cemented their status as a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament and most likely earned them the number one overall position. The Gators are riding a 19-game conference win streak and a 24-game win streak overall. Florida’s senior class is also within striking distance of the win record for a class, only three behind Walter Hodge’s 117. They also have a chance with a good finish to the SEC Tournament and another Elite 8 run to pass the UF-record for wins in a season at 35. These goals most definitely are on the minds of this record-setting group, but, as Chris Walker said when they landed in Atlanta, they’ll take it one day at a time.

Tennessee on the other hand needs wins to make it into the NCAA Tournament. While today’s win all but punches their ticket to the big dance, they could use a win over the number one team in the land to quell any questions. The Volunteers have some nice wins over teams like the three-seed in the SEC Tournament Georgia Bulldogs and the sixth-ranked Virginia Cavaliers, they also have losses to a middling NC State team, the 9-seed Texas A&M Aggies twice, and the 11-seed Vanderbilt Commodores. The Vols come in riding a five-game winning streak and they could very much use a win over the Gators to help their chances.

I had said earlier that Tennessee might have the best chance to snap Florida’s streaks. That’s due to a strong frontline with Jarnell Stokes and Jeronne Maymon and a backcourt that can score at will, led by Jordan McRae and Josh Richardson. McRae leads the Vols in scoring with 18.8 points and Stokes averages a double-double with 14.5 points and 10.3 rebounds. Stokes was a beast in the first two games and Florida will have to contain him on the boards and inside to come away with the win. Tennessee is 18th in the nation in rebounds with 39.2 per game. The Gators did hold McRae to only 22 points combined in the two games.

Florida will likely start a familiar lineup: seniors Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete, and Patric Young with sophomore Michael Frazier II. Tennesse will counter with one of the more experienced lineups the Gators have faced including senior guards Jordan McRae and Antonio Barton, junior guard Josh Richardson, senior forward Jeronne Maymon, and junior forward Jarnell Stokes.

It’s very difficult to beat a team three times in one season, but Florida will try to do just that to Tennessee Saturday. Tip-off in the Georgia Dome will be at 1 pm. Like Friday, it’s the first game of the day, so there will likely be no delays. You can watch the game on ABC and streaming atWatchESPN.com. If you can only listen to the game, you can check it out on the Gator IMG Sports Network or streaming on Country 103.7 The Gator.

Do you think Florida will come away with a win? Or will Tennessee get the better of round 3? Sound off in the comments, on Facebook, or Twitter.

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Tags: Basketball Florida Gators SEC Tournament

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