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GAMETHREAD: No. 13 LSU vs. Florida, 6 P.M., ESPN2

Tigers welcome a Gator team desperate to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers are back in the PMAC for the first time in 11 days.

After being away for nearly two weeks, LSU returns to Baton Rouge as conquering heroes over Kentucky and Georgia with a shiny new No. 13 attached to their ranking. All eyes are locked onto LSU’s huge game with Tennessee Saturday morning, but before the Tigers take on the Vols, they have to deal with the Gators.

The 2018-19 Florida team isn’t quite the Gators of recent years. Florida’s 14-11 overall and sitting in the middle of the SEC pack at 6-6 in conference play. The NET is also fan of the Gators despite their middling record and have them ranked 40th.

What’s killed Florida this season is the lack of offense. Florida’s only averaging about 68 points a game and is shooting just under 33 percent from three in league play.

Florida has also battled being undersized all season long. Center Gorjok Gak and forward Keith Stone are a pair of bigs that Florida hasn’t been able to rely on for the season. Gak has missed the entire season and Stone got hurt early on in conference play. The injuries have forced Florida head coach Mike White to play small forwards at power forward, and power forwards at center. The result is a physically mismatched team that’s being out-rebounded on the year.

Rebounding, especially on the offensive end, and points in the paint is a key part in LSU’s 21 wins and that should be an area the Tigers try to exploit Wednesday night. Florida’s likely starting frontcourt will be center Kevarrius Hayes and small forward Keyontae Johnson and the pair stands at 6’9” and 6’5” respectively. Expect Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams to be featured early and often and the plan should definitely include forcing Mike White to dip into his already shorthanded reserves of big men.

With LSU rolling through February, the Tennessee game looms larger and larger as each day passes. Now, with a top-15 battle set to take place Saturday it’s easy to overlook a Florida team with a so-so record. Make no mistake, Florida should not be treated as the undercard for Saturday’s heavyweight bout. LSU’s in the discussion of a potential three-seed for the NCAA tournament and Saturday will undoubtedly be the biggest game in the PMAC in years. But to get to Saturday, the Tigers have to make it through Wednesday.