by Tomas Lopez
Florida, which has won four of its last five games, can clinch a double-bye in the SEC tournament by winning at surging Tennessee on Tuesday in the teams’ only regular-season meeting. Thanks to SEC expansion, this is the first time since 1964 that the teams won’t play a home-and-home series. The No. 6 Florida Gators lead the 14-team conference by two games after Saturday’s 71-54 revenge victory over Arkansas. Florida has held 19 opponents to fewer than 60 points, while the Gators have failed to hit 60 once.
The Tennessee Volunteers have won a season-best five straight after Saturday’s four-overtime thriller against Texas A&M. The offense has finally come alive for Tennessee, which is shooting 47.5 percent overall and 46.4 percent on 3-pointers during the streak. The Volunteers have scored more than 80 points in three straight regular-season SEC games for the first time since 2000. Junior guards Trae Golden and Jordan McRae combined for 109 points in the last two games.
Florida Gators (22-4, 12-2 SEC): Guard Michael Frazier II (concussion) and forward Will Yeguete (knee) won't play Tuesday, but could return soon. Four players average in double figures: Mike Rosario (13), Kenny Boynton (12.9), Erik Murphy (12.5) and Patric Young (10.3), while Scottie Wilbekin isn’t far behind at 9.1. Boynton, a senior guard, leads active SEC players in career points (1.925) and 3-pointers made (319). Florida has been dominant defensively in SEC play, giving up an average of 53.4 points.
Tennessee Volunteers (16-10, 8-6): The Volunteers are making a late push for NCAA tournament consideration, and a win Tuesday could move them to the bubble. They’re currently No. 57 in the RPI. Sophomore forward Jarnell Stokes leads the SEC in rebounding (9), ranks second on the team in scoring (12.8) and has nine double-doubles in the last 11 games. Tennessee excels at getting to the line, with 24.1 percent of the team’s points scored on free throws. That percentage ranks 12th nationally. During their win streak, the Volunteers are averaging 20.6 made foul shots.
1. Under Billy Donovan, Florida is 16-17 against Tennessee. The Volunteers won both meetings last season.
2. Tennessee is 12-3 in February under second-year coach Cuonzo Martin.
3. The Gators outscore opponents off turnovers by an average of 18.4 to 10.6.
NCAA Basketball Prediction: Florida 74, Tennessee 65.
jordan mcrae - trae golden - billy donovan - cuonzo martin - florida gators - jarnell stokes - kenny boynton - michael frazier - mike rosario - tennessee volunteers