Time and Date: Saturday, December 29 @ 4:00 p.m. ET
Location: O’Connell Center (Gainesville)
Records: Butler (9-3) | Florida (7-4)
Rankings: Butler (#29 KenPom) | Florida (#27 KenPom)
TV Channel: ESPNU
Butler defeated Florida 61-54 on November 23 and on Saturday, the two teams will square off again. This game will be played under very different circumstances; while the previous game was played at a neutral site, this one will be played at the Gators’ home arena. The previous matchup was played in the Battle 4 Atlantis and both teams were playing their third game in as many days—this time, both teams will be coming off at least a week’s rest.
Florida has been playing well since falling to Butler. The Gators are 4-1 since then and their only loss came in a close one to Michigan State (#6 KenPom). Butler’s performance has varied since then, but the Bulldogs had one of their most impressive performances of the season last time out with a dismantling of UC Irvine.
Another reason this Butler-Florida contest will be different than the first is that Jordan Tucker is now playing for the Bulldogs. Tucker was fantastic against UC Irvine, knocking down some deep threes and logging 14 points. Butler’s offense sputtered against Florida the first time, but solid defense helped the Bulldogs get the win. Tucker’s scoring punch could help Butler overcome the road disadvantage.
LaVall Jordan would love for his squad to get a win against Florida and wrap up the nonconference season with a resume-building win. The Bulldogs have missed some opportunities to impress the committee and a road win against a tough SEC team could really help going forward. Along with that, the Bulldogs would love to generate some momentum going into their BIG EAST season debut against Georgetown.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Butler: Keep the game ugly
Butler’s last game against Florida was a slow-paced slugfest, which suits Butler just fine. Butler’s offense has improved significantly with the addition of Tucker and if the Bulldogs can keep this game ugly, they have a great chance of coming out on top. If they allow Florida to get out and run, get transition looks, and get open threes in the halfcourt, then the Bulldogs may fall on the run.
Florida: Guard the perimeter
Butler has found offensive success lately by driving and dishing, working the ball around to find open three-point shooters. For now, the Bulldogs are relying heavily on the long ball for scoring. Florida needs to stay attached to Jorgensen, McDermott, and Tucker and force the Bulldogs to score inside. Thompson and Baldwin are capable slashers but Butler will likely lack the necessary scoring inside to prevail without several threes.