- Myron Medcalf, ESPN Staff Writer
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Yep. That just happened.
Florida, No. 2 in the polls, just lost at Arkansas. By a thousand points. OK, the real score was 80-69. But it felt like there was a million-point gap between the teams for most of the game, right? The Razorbacks shot 53 percent from the field and took a 23-point lead in the first half, while the Gators managed an uncharacteristically low 29 percent clip before halftime.
So what does this mean? I’m not sure. But I’ll try to explain …
For Arkansas fans: Look what happens when the Razorbacks play D. It’s amazing, right? I mean, the same squad that just upset the Gators gave up 75 at South Carolina. Arkansas is ranked 93rd in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy and 11th in the SEC in defending the 3-point line (conference schools were shooting 35.2 percent from beyond the arc against the Hogs prior to Tuesday’s win).
But they’d averaged 77.0 points per game this season, No. 22 in America, prior to the upset. BJ Young and Marshawn Powell comprise one of the most talented offensive duos in America. And when Arkansas’ offense flows, the Razorbacks can put up points by the boatload. See: Tuesday.
Yet, Arkansas has only played well at home (5-0 in the SEC in Fayetteville, 0-4 on the road) since the start of conference play. The Razorbacks have lost to Texas A&M, South Carolina, Alabama and Ole Miss on the road. Tuesday’s victory will certainly boost this team’s résumé (77 BPI entering the matchup), but securing additional quality wins in a league as weak as the SEC will be a difficult task. They’ll go to Gainesville for the rematch Feb. 23 and they have two remaining matchups against No. 21 Missouri.
So it’s conceivable -- especially if the real Arkansas stood up Tuesday evening -- that the Razorbacks could make a case for an at-large bid in the coming weeks.
And they could also lose to Vanderbilt in Nashville on Saturday. No guarantees with a team that’s demonstrated such a different swagger on the road.
But the Hogs can build on Tuesday’s win, that’s for sure.
For Florida fans: First, the numbers. The Gators had defeated their first eight SEC opponents by an average of more than 26 points a game. Steamrolling would be putting it nicely to those eight opponents.
Courtesy of the geniuses at ESPN Stats & Information: If the Gators had defeated Arkansas by 14 points or more Tuesday, they would have been just the third team in college basketball history to win nine consecutive conference games by that margin (UNLV in 1990-91, Arizona in 1988-89).
We talkin’ ’bout history. Florida was not just the most dominant team in the SEC, the Gators were enjoying one of the most dominant regular-season stretches in recent college basketball history.
So it was shocking to see that team get crushed the way it did against Arkansas. The Razorbacks scored 43 points in the first half. Three teams failed to score 43 points in matchups against the Gators this season. Billy Donovan’s program hadn’t given up more than 67 points in one game this season. Arkansas scored 80.
I think it will be easy for doubters to point to Florida’s schedule and league affiliation and question its impressive performances. The Gators have suffered their three losses (Arizona, Kansas State and Arkansas) outside Gainesville. They play in a weak conference. They’ve defeated two teams all season that are currently ranked in the Associated Press poll (No. 21 Missouri and No. 24 Marquette).
Overrated? Slow down.
I say Florida is still a very good team. The Gators are balanced, proven by the fact that they were the only team in the country that was ranked top five in both defensive and offensive efficiency prior to Tuesday’s loss.
Look, they had a really bad night against a team that had a great one. Still, I don’t think the game was a major statement for either team. A beating is a beating. The Gators took one. They were down by 27 points in the second half and committed 16 turnovers. What can Donovan really take from that?
The Gators will move on, regroup, potentially get healthy (Will Yeguete missed a chunk of the game with a knee injury) and push toward the SEC crown.
The bottom line is that Arkansas did things in this game that it had failed to do throughout the season. And Florida made mistakes that it had not made in previous SEC games.
Maybe it’ll spur the Hogs on to an incredible run and be the first sign of a fraudulent Florida team. But I doubt it.
In the words of Public Enemy, “don’t believe the hype” about the Gators or the Razorbacks after a lopsided matchup that could prove to be an anomaly for both squads.