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March 1, 2013TUSCALOOSA | It isn't quite a golden ticket, a free pass into the postseason, a key to the treasure chest holding the Southeastern Conference championships hardware.
But a win in today's basketball game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Florida Gators would at least let UA start talking about those things.
"The thing we've talked about (is) having the opportunity to control our destiny," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "It's in our hands and I think the guys are excited about it. We're looking forward to the challenge."
The Crimson Tide trails Florida by one game in the current SEC standings and could pull even with a win. That would not assure Alabama of the title by any means - UA still faces a difficult road trip to Ole Miss and a home finale against Georgia - but would allow Alabama to win its way to the crown.
Florida is coming off a loss to Tennessee last Tuesday, but is returning to full strength from an injury standpoint.
"They are very balanced team," Grant, a longtime assistant at Florida, said. "The difficult thing is they've had a few players that have been out. (Michael) Frazier has only been out one game, but (Will) Yeguete has been out for several games. Adding them back to the mix, now you have to factor in some different things that maybe you haven't had to see. It makes them deeper, it allows them to do some more things from a defensive standpoint that they hadn't done. Just the prepa ration is a challenge with the variety of things you have to be prepared for against a team like Florida."
The home court advantage at Florida should not be underestimated. The Gator students are close to the floor, unlike the arrangement at Alabama, and have an impact.
"It's really tough," UA senior Andrew Steele said. "Their fans do a good job of keeping their team into the game. It's going to be a very, very tough environment, but I think this year we've been in a situation like that before. Once the game starts, I think you kind of just block everything out. We understand that the game is going to be settled on the court."
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.