No. 3 Florida, No. 14 Kentucky meet at Rupp Arena

Associated Press • Feb 14, 2014 at 9:40 AM

A look at five things to watch in the Southeastern Conference this week:

GAME OF THE WEEKEND: It's a matchup of the league's marquee teams when No. 3 Florida (22-2, 11-0 SEC) travels to face No. 14 Kentucky (19-5, 9-2). The Gators haven't lost in more than two months and appear even more formidable now that 6-foot-10 freshman forward Chris Walker has been cleared by the NCAA. Walker's presence has been limited, but his athleticism is obvious and it gives Florida much-needed depth in the frontcourt. Kentucky's young roster is quickly improving and the Wildcats come into the game on a four-game winning streak.

LOOKING AHEAD: There is a chance the SEC could be a two-bid league. Most mock brackets have the SEC sending more than two teams to the NCAA tournament, but the league's bubble teams haven't distinguished themselves lately. Tennessee and Mississippi have lost two of their last three games. Missouri has a losing record in conference play. LSU just lost to Texas A&M. Is any other SEC team going to join NCAA tournament locks Florida and Kentucky in the 68-team field? The last time the SEC sent only two teams to the NCAA tournament was 1979, when the field only included 40 teams.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Auburn guard Chris Denson has taken over the SEC scoring lead and has produced at least 25 points in each of his last three games, including a 26-point outburst Wednesday in a 64-56 loss to Kentucky. Denson is averaging 20.5 points per game, while Missouri's Jabari Brown ranks second in the conference with 20.1 per game. Denson is trying to become Auburn's first SEC scoring champ since Wesley Person averaged a league-high 22.2 points per game in 1993-94.

KEY STATS: Georgia continues its surprising run in SEC play, with a 7-4 record that is tied for third in the league with Mississippi. The Bulldogs have won three straight league games by double digits for the first time since 1998. ... Florida's run through the SEC has been nothing short of dominant. The Gators are outscoring their opponents by an average of 13.7 points and giving up less than 57 points per game. ... Tennessee's Jarnell Stokes is averaging 14.6 points and a league-high 11.6 rebounds during SEC play.

ON THE WOMEN'S SIDE: No. 5 South Carolina (22-2, 10-1) is about to face a major test in its quest to win its first SEC title. South Carolina's next two games are on the road against ranked foes: No. 19 LSU and No. 18 Kentucky. South Carolina entered the week ranked fifth among all Division I teams in field-goal percentage (.487), third in field-goal percentage defense (.341) and third in blocked shots per game (7.2).

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