Florida’s Uninspiring Opener and What To Watch For Against WisconsinPosted by Greg Mitchell on November 9th, 2013
There are expectations, realistic or not, that come with a #10 ranking, and that includes piling on small conference schools early in the season. Florida didn’t live up to this expectation against North Florida, as the Ospreys hung around for most of the game at the O’Connell Center Friday afternoon. Should the Gators be concerned heading into their game at #20 Wisconsin on Tuesday? Absolutely, but nothing happened Friday that should cause concern in the long run.
First, Billy Donovan warned that a game like this might happen. “When you looked on paper at the guys that were supposed to be on our team, we looked like a very optimistic, promising team,” Donovan said. “Right now, we’re not a very good team. [...] We’re not the same team. If everybody looked at it on paper before the season started, each guy is healthy, each guy is here, what our team would look like. Our team is not that team on paper.” The absence of backup forwards Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris was felt early. Patric Young picked up two fouls within the first eight minutes of the game, and Will Yeguete looked rusty as he recovers from offseason surgery. This led to Donovan giving 26 minutes to walk-on forward Jacob Kurtz. Kurtz primarily played at the top of the defense, and while he did a good job, that’s an important role in Donovan’s defense and there was a talent drop-off. Donovan also went with lineups with Casey Prather as the biggest player. Both of these configurations took the Gators away from their core strength: balanced lineups with athletic big men.
Young had a lackluster day with only two points and two rebounds in 20 minutes. Only three times last season did Young grab two rebounds or fewer. This is the time a senior contributor like him should play at a higher level. Friday, however, was almost certainly an aberration and nothing more. He was in foul trouble early, and Florida seemed to be bolting into their transition offense every other possession. He’s a proven commodity (16 percent career defensive rebounding percentage) and it’s likely he comes back in a big way against Wisconsin. On a positive note for Florida, Prather (28 points) and Michael Frazier (19 points) had career high scoring games. Both players are transitioning to bigger roles after being role players a year ago, and Donovan must be encouraged they carried the team when Young was off and others were out. Prather’s aggressiveness was especially impressive, with 11 free throw attempts.
The Badgers, coming off an opening night win against St. John’s, are as usual a very good team. The Kohl Center is a tough place to play. It’s unreasonable to expect a full-strength Florida team to win an early November game in Madison, let alone one missing so many important players. Here are three things I’ll be watching for from the Gators on Tuesday night:
- Young’s response after a poor season-opening game.
- How Kasey Hill handles a difficult road environment and a Wisconsin team that will try to force him into a slower game than Florida wants to play.
- Florida’s three-point defense. North Florida’s Beau Beech went 5-of-8 from three and hit three in the last four minutes of the first half to tighten up the game at halftime. Wisconsin has a number of capable three-point shooters (Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Ben Brust), and the Gators can’t let one of them get loose like Beech did.