Florida basketball: ESPN favors the Gators over the No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats

Florida has the chance to make a big statement in their conference opener on Saturday afternoon
Dec 30, 2023; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Quinnipiac Bobcats forward Amarri Tice (15) defends a three
Dec 30, 2023; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Quinnipiac Bobcats forward Amarri Tice (15) defends a three / Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Florida basketball sits at 10-3 after their opening stretch to the 2023-2024 season, and are very confident as they head into the start of SEC play this weekend.

The Gators don't get to ease into their conference slate. Florida is set to host the No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats in Exactech Arena on Saturday at 12:30 pm.

Kentucky, at 10-2, figures to be one of the best teams in the country and a Final Four contender all season long.

However, ESPN says that the Gators are the favorite to bring home a win this weekend.

Florida basketball: Defend home court

Gator fans have seen this movie before. Last season, the Gators welcomed in a top-five Tennessee Volunteers team to Exactech Arena and beat them up and down the court early on in conference play.

So why not run it back? There's no sport on the planet where playing at home makes as big a difference as it does in college basketball, and the Rowdy Reptiles are no exception to that.

This Florida team is currently projected as one of the last four teams in per Joe Lunardi, but they have the potential to climb up and lock themselves into a high seed before we get to March.

That push starts this weekend. Florida will have to contend with a Wildcats team that can score the ball, putting up 91.1 points per game compared to UF's 86.3. They're also a little more consistent from the field, shooting the ball at a 50.2% clip compared to the Gators' 47.2%.

Where Florida has the edge is in rebounding. The Gators are the best rebounding team in the country, grabbing 45.4 boards per game. Grabbing an extra possession off the glass at the end of games can completely flip the result.

There's no spread for this game yet, but ESPN's FPI likes the Gators. They give Florida a 61.9% chance to take down Kentucky.

We will have a more in-depth preview for this matchup as we get closer to game day, but nobody should see the number 6 next to UK's logo and mail it in just yet. This is a game that the Gators can win.