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A MONTH after being hired in April, Gillispie (left) lost a recruiting duel with Donovan for four-star Houston point guard Jai Lucas—but then beat the Gators for a better prospect, five-star Huntington, W.Va., power forward Patrick Patterson. It was an early victory for Billy Clyde in his quest to restore order in the SEC.
TALKING THE TALK
"When I got [to Florida], I tried to sell every player we recruited on the fact that we could compete with the Wildcats: 'Come be a part of a program that can stand toe to toe with Kentucky.'"
WHEN THEY MEET: Jan. 19 in Gainesville; March 9 in Lexington
HOW WE GOT HERE
FIVE YEARS AGO, when the West Coast had never heard of Kevin Love and O.J. Mayo, UCLA-USC was an unremarkable rivalry with nothing more than metropolitan bragging rights at stake. Once a dynasty, the Bruins had deteriorated to a level below Arizona and Stanford in the Pac-10; the Trojans were, aside from one Elite Eight run in 2001, barely relevant basketball hobbyists at a school of football preprofessionals. Now, with Love at UCLA, which has gone to two straight Final Fours under Ben Howland, and Mayo at USC, no one laughed when Trojans coach Tim Floyd said, on the eve of this season, "Our goal is to make USC-UCLA the Duke--North Carolina in college basketball." Says Floyd, "I think people are going to stay up a little later to watch games and pay attention to what [Love and Mayo] are doing." UCLA guard Josh Shipp says,"We always hate SC, no matter who's playing," but with added star power comes a lot more heat.