GAINESVILLE — Florida likely will be ranked No. 1 in the polls for the first time since 2007 on Monday, after Syracuse was upset by Boston College earlier in the week, if it can win today at Ole Miss.
First, there’s the matter of beating the Rebels.
Remember, the Gators went into last year’s SEC tournament championship game as huge favorites, only to be surprised by Ole Miss. UF lost a 12-point halftime lead and fell 66-63, the only loss in the past six meetings between the schools.
Florida (24-2, 13-0 SEC), which would break the record for the best start in school history set in 2007 with a win, has a three-game lead in the race for the regular-season title. But the memory of that Ole Miss loss still haunts.
“It was really tough to handle,’’ Florida senior center Patric Young said. “That’s in the past. Of course, losing the opportunity to cut more nets down, we’re going to have a little bit of grudge in our hearts. But we can’t let that be the motivating factor for us this year.
“We want to be great. That’s the key internal factor for us to want to play this game. It’s another opportunity to strive for that. We know what they’re capable of doing, so we have to come ready to play.’’
Indeed, a win would be huge. It would get Florida to the top of the polls, in all likelihood, and closer to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney.
“I think people always talk about, ‘Are you going to get everybody’s best shot?’ My thing has always been, we need to give our best shot,’’ UF coach Billy Donovan said. “We need to play to the very, very best of our ability.’’