NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Auburn and Florida square off today in the Music City as the Tigers search for their first SEC Tournament finals berth since 2000. Here's what to keep an eye on.
Players to watch
KeVaughn Allen and Kevarrius Hayes (Florida):
The two senior leaders of Florida, KeVaughn Allen and Kevarrius Hayes, have been the most consistent players on the Gators this season.
When it comes to the five main statistical categories on Florida (points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals), it is either Allen or Hayes that is at the top for four of the five categories.
One of Florida’s strengths is its ability to switch and rebound on defense at all five positions. Allen and Hayes lead the charge on those fronts.
Against LSU, the two combined for 19 defensive stops.
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Allen will likely have Bryce Brown as his primary responsibility, so it will be interesting to see if Auburn tries to use high-ball screens to get an elite defender like Allen off of its leading scorer.
With a short-term notice on Florida, Bruce Pearl said he has a lot to look at to prepare for a team that is so versatile.
“They are hard to guard,” Pearl said. “They switch a lot, so we’re going to have to find ways to be able to score on them. They’re a dangerous team, to, because they can spread it They’re very unique defensively. Who switches one through five? Very unique.”
Chuma Okeke (Auburn):
Arguably the most well-rounded player on Auburn’s roster has had a rough go of it so far in the SEC Tournament.
Okeke is averaging just eight points and has gotten himself in foul trouble in both games thus far.
Auburn is going to need Okeke and his versatility to step up and take over. The perimeter defense of Florida is good so dishing it inside to Okeke should be something Pearl should try to get going early and often.
Keys to victory
- The Tigers can’t afford to turn the ball over against this transition-happy Florida squad. Also, the Tigers need to do a better job boxing out and keeping Florida from getting second chance points.
- Florida needs to lockdown the perimeter and make Auburn get its points from inside. The Gators can also take advantage of Auburn’s lack of defensive rebounding to stay in the game.
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