ESPN analyst Jay Williams describes Kentucky and Florida as "two teams trending in opposite directions."
Kentucky continues what the sports network likes to call the "pursuit of perfection."
And Florida? More like lurching in fits and starts toward relief of the finish line.
For the Gators, this season is "an identity crisis," Williams said. "Trying to figure out who they are."
The Southeastern Conference's great basketball ships pass each other Saturday night in Gainesville. If there's any doubt that UK and UF are the league's flagship programs, please note that television masters have scheduled a Kentucky-Florida game on the final weekend of the regular season (a tasty appetizer for March Madness) every year but one since 1999. In that span, both UK-UF regular-season games were played in the sweeps month of February every year but three.
But this season, Florida seems more like another necessary appendage than co-star.
Even when he isn't rebuilding after the loss of four senior starters, Coach Billy Donovan likes to note that all teams face adversity in all seasons. In this, Kentucky is no exception even with its 22-0 record and No. 1 ranking in every poll every week.
UK had to deal with shocking injury when Alex Poythress tore an anterior cruciate ligament in mid-December. More recently, Trey Lyles missed the last two games, and seems iffy at best for Saturday because of an undisclosed illness.
In speaking with reporters Thursday, UK Coach John Calipari suggested another potential hindrance. Perfection itself might cause a problem.
Calipari noted how someone on a "show" pointed out an imperfection. "Kentucky's not that good offensively," Calipari said this person supposedly opined.
After pointing out that Kentucky rated high in offensive efficiency, had almost 100 more assists than turnovers, possessed credible three-point shooters and multiple low-post scoring threats, Calipari played his trump card.
"Here's the thing that's hard for people to deal with," he said. "We're not perfect. We're not shooting 88 percent and 99 (percent) from the free throw line. . . .
"You need to be perfect. You're at Kentucky. Be perfect!"
Reflecting on UK's offense (No. 45 nationally in scoring; No. 64 in shooting accuracy; No. 111 in three-point shooting accuracy), Calipari said, "That's our issue. Wow. I'm happy."
Florida (12-10) has issues with consistency. Seven of the Gators' losses have come by a combined 22 points.
With last season's seniors Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather and Will Yeguete, Florida had a 15-2 record in games decided by nine or fewer points.
Donovan has suggested this season's struggles are an unavoidable prelude to notable achievement.
"Any team that becomes any good, it can always be traced back to the hardening of losing, the hardening of some disappointing thing happening to you personally . . . ," he said. "A bunch of emotional ups and downs before you can have any level of success. You have to go through failure. I just believe that. I don't know if any team I've coached at Florida that's been any good that hasn't gone through some heartache."
For the Florida team coming off the SEC's first 18-0 regular-season won-loss record, this season's stumbles have hurt.
"Very, very humbling," Donovan said a month ago. "And I think it's been really, really good for these guys to understand you are just not given things. You have to go out there and earn them."
With new player roles and new team leaders, Donovan anticipated toil and trouble.
"This is not a surprise to me at all," he said after Florida lost three of its first six SEC games. "We've been forced to confront some of the things we have to get better at a lot sooner than later."
Several SEC coaches spoke with assurance that Donovan was too good a coach and Florida too established as a program to not be, well, Florida by February and March. One notable exception to this happy-ending talk has been Donovan.
Asked two weeks ago if there was enough time for Florida to right its ship, he said, "I don't know. Right now, do I necessarily see that happening? No, I don't."
And while Florida's search for synchronicity evokes memories of Kentucky last season, the Cats only care about their own course.
"We don't really (pay) attention to them," Willie Cauley-Stein said. "We just try to stay focused on ourselves and what we've got to do (to) keep on climbing to another level that everybody knows we can get to.
"That's our biggest focus."