Written by James Brown, Co-Founder of Gatorsfirst.com
The Florida Gators travel to Fayetteville tonight for an SEC basketball showdown with the Arkansas Razorbacks. Like you, I'll be watching on ESPN at 9 pm ET (playing the 2010 Florida Basketball Drinking Game)... though I made the trip for basketball two years ago, and in 2008 for football, and recommend it.
Arkansas comes into the game struggling (record-wise), but at least they won their first exhibition game of the year, against Ft. Lauderdale's technology magnet high school. Or there could be two Dillards. Arkansas also has to go to Rupp Arena (to play a Kentucky team looking for a #1 ranking) less than 48 hours after this game, so maybe they'll look ahead. Regardless, this is a big-time road game against an always physical opponent in a tough road environment (their arena is among the bigger venues in the conference).
Let's move on to some tips on visiting Fayetteville, and some more points about today's game...
This game begins a Thursday-Saturday sequence for both teams. The short turnaround is the product of a Thursday night game, something that came with the ESPN contract for more national exposure for our teams. I'll leave alone arguments about how this effects the way teams practice- for the Thursday game as well as the Sunday game- but I will say that we should learn a lot about the maturity of our team by the way they handle the tough road environment, followed by a short preparation time for Devan Downey and Co.
Traveling to Fayetteville
If you're going to Fayetteville, do me a favor and go to Doe's Eat Place on Dickson St. and get a Rib Eye. It's 2 lbs, but I took it down by myself last year. Then, go to Hog Haus and put down some microbrews, and possibly do the tour (I love the beer, but haven't done the tour).
In fact, 3 of the 4 founders of this website made the trip for the football game. Here is my writeup and Chris' writeup of the experience. Also, I wrote about the trip for the basketball game two years ago, when this site had a more primitive format, and when I was somehow worse at writing than I am now. You can check that out here.
Should we win this Arkansas game? If we're a tournament team, yes. Don't get me wrong- it's far from a gimme. But I think we need to take care of our home schedule (possibly losing one more conference game there) and win probably 3 road games to get in. Georgia is the obvious choice for the easiest road game. (Also, the obvious choice for being the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked). But that means we have to win 2 of South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, and Ole Miss (yes, I'm chalking up Tennessee and Kentucky as losses. Those wins would be huge for us, and I'm not ruling them out, but I'm trying to come up with a minimum number of wins to make the NCAAs here). Getting this game as a road win to even our conference record and to head into the short turnaround for the Gamecocks with a W would be huge for our team.
Arkansas is a dangerous team, led by Courtney Fortson and Rotnei Clarke. Fortson has missed some time due to suspension, but has been leading the team since his return. The gamblers are telling you to take Arkansas and the points. I can't really argue with it. I still have nightmares of our most recent performance up there.
I'm going to pick Florida to win this game, because I'm a homer and I believe in this team. They really took it to us 2 years ago in Fayetteville, but playing a team coming off back to back NIT appearances can't get them as fired up as playing a team coming off back to back NCAA Championships- and 3 straight SEC Championships- right? Anyway, I'm going to say we win a tough game, Gator fans will continue to whine about Dan Werner, but we start to show some toughness and maturity that will be necessary to develop into an NCAA-worthy team. The fans want offense, but this team should stick to their personality and bring their defense on the road. I hope that translates into enough effort to get a much-needed SEC road win.
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