Know the Foe: No. 24 Gators are Road Warriors

Today’s game: No. 24 Florida (16-4, 5-1 SEC) at Mississippi State (10-9, 2-3), noon, CBS (Kevin Harlan play-by-play, Bill Raftery analyst)

We know Florida is good. How good? Try 5-0 on the road, including 3-0 in SEC play. So, the Gators are very good.

Experience helps. All five starters are back from last year’s team, and three of those guys are seniors now. The leading scorer is a junior, guard Erving Walker (14.3 ppg), who leads a potent backcourt.

In the post, Florida is just big: Vernon Macklin (6-foot-10, 240 pounds), Chandler Parsons (6-9, 218) and Alex Tyus (6-8, 220). MSU, of course, is kind of thin in the post, and 6-10 sophomore Renardo Sidney hasn’t played well the last couple of games.

So, naturally, Florida can dominate on the boards. It ranks third in the league in defensive rebounding percentage (69.4) and second in offensive rebounding percentage (39.6). Parsons leads the team with 7.4 rpg, followed by Macklin’s 6.4.

Florida can play defense, too, allowing 61.2 ppg (second in the SEC). Opponents are shooting 41.4 percent (eighth), but as the rebounding numbers show, there aren’t a lot of second-shot opportunities.

Florida’s won 11 of its last 13 games, and seven of those victories have come against top-100 RPI teams. The Gators’ current RPI rank is 14th, and their strength of schedule is sixth. Between this being a CBS game and the MSU media relations department adding some nice touches to the atmosphere (free T-shirts! Gator Bowl trophy at halftime!), don’t expect Florida to be intimidated.

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