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2012 SEC Women's Basketball Tournament Preview: Florida Gators Have To Overcome Kentucky Wildcats' Pressure Defense

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Florida Gators head coach Amanda Butler will need to figure out a way to solve the Kentucky Wildcats' press in order to advance in the 2012 SEC tournament. <em>Randy Sartin-US PRESSWIRE</em>
Florida Gators head coach Amanda Butler will need to figure out a way to solve the Kentucky Wildcats' press in order to advance in the 2012 SEC tournament. Randy Sartin-US PRESSWIRE

In addition to a solid RPI, one of the things that makes the Florida Gators such a strong candidate for an at-large bid to the 2012 NCAA women's basketball tournament is that 9 of their 11 losses were by less than two possessions, with the two losses to ranked opponents.

Yet neither of those two losses to ranked opponents came at the hands of today's opponent in the 2012 SEC Tournament, the Kentucky Wildcats.

The Gators lost to the Wildcats by a combined 8 points in two meetings this season. After beating the Auburn Tigers in the opening round of the 2012 SEC tournament, the Gators get a third chance to tangle with the Wildcats.

Yet the biggest obstacle for the Gators to overcome against the Wildcats could be something that was a glaring weakness for the Tigers in their opening round loss, as alluded to by Greg Alan Edwards of SB Nation's A Sea of Blue: turnovers.

The Gators committed a season-high 23 turnovers twice during SEC play: on New Year's Day against Kentucky and exactly three weeks later at Kentucky. In the latter meeting, they had a season-low 6 assists to go with their season-low (or high, if that makes more sense) 33.3% turnover rate.

So yes, Kentucky's defense is good and it has given Florida fits this season. Nevertheless, Florida can also take some good away from that second meeting: the Gators held SEC Player of the Year A'Dia Mathies and SEC Freshman of the Year Bria Goss to a combined 8 points on 3-for-17 shooting. Although Kentucky managed to win with rather disruptive defense of their own, they'll probably need a stronger defensive effort to beat the Gators a third time.

There will be no surprises for UK in this game, A'dia Mathies has to lead UK if they expect to put up a W, but she cannot do it alone. Kentucky has the components to be difficult for everyone to handle, and the veteran players to keep the ship righted as tournament play wears on. Look for big games from Goss, as well as from Brittany Henderson and Maegan Conwright.

The game will be the first SEC tournament game of the day at 2 p.m. EDT on FSN and once again maybe the most significant: a Florida upset would further firm up their spot in the NCAA tournament.

Click here for a game thread from A Sea Of Blue.

Click here for a brief rundown of today's SEC tournament schedule with links to stats and recaps. Click here to see the full tournament bracket (in .pdf format).