A Saturday night tip in Rupp Arena and a visit from the College GameDay crew can provide plenty of exposure. Will Florida or Kentucky end up being exposed by the end of the weekend?
No. 18 Kentucky hosts Florida in a battle for the top of the Southeastern Conference on Saturday night (8:15 p.m., ESPN). Despite hovering near the top of the league, both teams are trying to overcome some notable flaws as they work their way through the thick of the conference schedule.
An early leg up in the standings would be helpful, but a rough night for the Wildcats or the Gators could shine the spotlight on some questions that need answering for the traditional top dogs in a conference bubbling with new and intriguing teams.
John Calipari’s Wildcats are as long and as athletic as they have ever been. A team built to dominate an NBA combine workout doesn’t guarantee consistent results on the court, though. Kentucky (14-4) suffered its roughest loss of the season -- a double-digit beating at South Carolina -- earlier this week.
At times, Kentucky’s athleticism is overwhelming for opponents. At others, it shows that a team loaded with elite pieces doesn’t become an elite team if they don’t all fit together properly. The sum of their skills is good enough to beat Florida (or just about anyone else in the country) if they jell. The lack of one or two true shooters will also cost them some games.
Florida doesn’t lack a go-to offensive player, but junior KeVaughn Allen is trying to push his way out of a slump. Allen will hope that a return to form against Arkansas earlier this week is a sign of good things to come. After scoring a combined total of 17 points in his first four games of 2018, the Arkansas native dropped 28 against the Razorbacks in a victory Thursday.
Florida coach Mike White told reporters that he tried just about every psychological approach he knows to help pull Allen out of his funk. Last week, White said he was confident that Allen would find his stroke again, and he was just would patiently wait for that to happen. Kentucky’s defense -- especially against the 3-pointer -- is as good as any that Allen and his teammates will face this season. A good showing against the Wildcats would be a good sign for Florida.
Others to watch
A milestone for Bates-Diop: Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop is only two layups shy of reaching 1,000-point mark in his career at Ohio State. The redshirt junior’s recent breakout stretch has included back-to-back Big Ten player of the week accolades. Forget the mediocre night against Northwestern earlier this week. Nobody in the conference is playing better than the 6-foot-7 redshirt junior right now. As a result, his Buckeyes are ranked No. 22 in this week’s AP and coaches' polls and have yet to lose a conference game.
On Saturday, Bates-Diop has a chance to keep things rolling against Minnesota (noon ET, BTN). The Gophers are on the ropes after losing three straight against Big Ten opponents. A team that started the season in the top 15 could keep hopes of a turnaround alive by beating the Buckeyes.
Pac-12 supremacy: It had been nearly two years since Stanford’s most recent victory over a ranked opponent, but after a solid win over No. 16 Arizona State on Wednesday, the Cardinal only have to wait a few days for a shot at another résumé-building victory. No. 14 Arizona and Stanford (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, CBS), are currently tied atop the Pac-12 standings. Center Josh Sharma and fellow big man Reid Travis could give the Cardinal the depth they need in the paint to deal with freshman star Deandre Ayton.
ACC bubble buster: The conference schedule has not been kind to a Florida State team that won 11 of its first 12 games to start the season. The Seminoles have lost three of the past four heading into a Saturday matchup against Virginia Tech (noon ET, ESPN2). The Hokies are currently fall in the “next four out” category in ESPN’s bracketology. They have a big week ahead with games against Florida State, North Carolina and Notre Dame. The Seminoles’ seat in the tournament is not yet in jeopardy, but it will be headed in that direction without a win to help them pull out of the current tailspin.