TV Schedule: Saturday, Jan. 30, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Arena: Stephen O’Connell Center, Gainesville, Fla.
Tied for first place in the Big 12, the West Virginia Mountaineers are ranked No. 9 in the country after upsetting the then No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks earlier in the season. Boasting the No. 26 ranked offense in terms of points per game and No. 21 ranked defense in terms of points allowed, the Mountaineers show signs of being much more of a legitimate national title contender than the pretenders many believe them to be.
Next up for West Virginia is a trip to Gainesville, Florida, to face off with the Florida Gators, who currently hold a 13-7 record and are struggling to find their form in SEC play, especially on the road.
Despite March Madness still well over a month away, Florida fell to the Vanderbilt Commodores, 60-59, and will need a miracle to get back into NCAA tournament bubble talk. The Gators have exceeded expectations under first-year head coach Michael White, but they have failed to hold their own against any of the NCAA tournament-bound teams they have faced and only have one true road win on the season. Of their seven losses, four have come to ranked opponents and the other three have come on the road.
Although Florida is a much better team than their record shows, I believe the trend of losing to ranked opponents continues on Saturday afternoon. West Virginia’s defense should manhandle the Gators’ shaky offense, and the Mountaineers should head into their crucial road matchup with the Iowa State Cyclones with a big win.
Prediction: West Virginia 68, Florida 62