The University of Alabama moves on to the second round of the SEC tournament Friday and will face Florida at 2:30 p.m. CT.
The Crimson Tide will have their hands full with the Gators, a team they haven't beaten since 2008. For Alabama to get to get over the hump and advance to the SEC semifinals, these three things must happen:
Limit Florida's outside shooting
If Florida is allowed to jack up uncontested three-pointers, the game will be over in the bat of an eye. Limiting the Gators' looks from beyond the arc and forcing the action into the middle of the floor will be key. Simply put, it's up to the Alabama defense to harness UF guards Erving Walker, Bradley Beal and Kenny Boynton. An answer for UA may come in the form of Rodney Cooper. He has the length to harass Beal's shot and is capable of getting hot from 3-point range himself.
Play 40 minutes
Thursday's close call against South Carolina should prove once and for all that Alabama can't let off the gas. When the Tide aren't giving 100 percent effort, 100 percent of the time, it shows. If the Gamecocks were able to cut a 14-point lead to nothing, just think what the Gators will do. When UA is at its best, the defense plays with energy and creates offense through steals and blocked shots, allowing the guards to get out in transition. When UA's energy wanes, the defense falters and the offense becomes sloppy with the basketball. It's important to note that when Alabama is 12-3 when it wins the turnover battle. When Alabama doesn't, it's a .500 team.
Use the playbook in hand
The good news for Alabama: Anthony Grant and staff already know how to beat Florida. They proved it on Feb. 14 when Alabama held Florida to 30 percent shooting in the first half and attacked the rim on offense, shooting nearly 60 percent from the floor. UA was tied with UF at half but let the game slip away with a bad 5-minute stretch in the final period. Since the loss, Alabama has improved, welcoming back JaMychal Green and becoming a better top-to-bottom team. If the Tide can use the game plan engineered for Florida a month ago and sustain defensive effort, they will have a shot to pull off the upset.