|School:||University of Florida|
|Division:||NCAA DIV I|
|Head Coach:||Billy Donovan|
Value City Arena will be the host of the first marquee match-up in the nation on Tuesday, that hasn’t been played on an aircraft carrier (yes I went there). The Ohio State Buckeyes and Florida Gators have a long history on the hardwood and gridiron and a history of going back and forth. After meeting in the National Championship in 2009, the Gators and Buckeyes tested each other early in the season — almost exactly a year ago. The Buckeyes would prevail 93-75 and ride the momentum of that big win throughout the season.
When the Gators and Buckeyes take the hardwood on Tuesday, much of the same is on the line that was a year ago. With a win, each team can take momentum into the rest of their non-conference schedule. With a loss, each team faces the ridicule and uphill battle of losing to their first experienced and equally talented test.
Like the Buckeyes, this Florida team comes into Columbus very very talented, but also very very young. They are coached by one of the better strategic minds in the game of college basketball. And when it comes down to the wire, they can beat you in so many ways.
Here is a look at the 2011 Florida Gators.
When it comes to the talent on this roster, it consists of a very good mixture of veteran leadership and Young talent. Erving Walker runs the show at the point, and has continued to evolve into a true point guard that Donovan can count on to lead his offense. Walker, who started in the program as shooting guard, averaged 14.6 points per game last season. At 5’8″, he brings an interesting skill set to the position, because of his shotting mentality. He is not afraid to challenge players bigger and taller than him. He is also very aggressive on both sides of the court because of it. The one thing he lacks from the position is a real desire to dish the basketball at times. With some really good scorers on this team, it will be key for Walker to distribute the basketball. He has nailed some clutch shots in his career, but it’s time to pass that torch on by finding the wide open man.
One of those targets will be junior Kenny Boyton. He has had his moments in his three seasons with the Gators, and surely has improved his shot. Like many though that camp from downtown, Boynton has been a really streaky shooter. If he finds his rhythm, watch out. He will shoot teams out of the gymnasium. If he cant find his touch from three, then his is ice cold. He will be in charge of shutting down the top wing scorer throughout this one, as he is easily the best defender on the team. Donovan believes that he is NBA caliber on the defensive side of the basketball. In order to have success in the backcourt, the key for the shooting guard will be making better decisions on the court. It all starts with shot selection. Boynton has been clutch throughout his career as well, but he has also been known for his issues of shooting himself out of the lineup. He did a good job against Jackson State of balancing his game. He only shot the ball 7 times, while dishing out 3 assists.
If he can figure out how to balance his game, he can become a David Lighty like threat on both sides of the ball.
The Gators will mostly play a three guard set, as incoming freshman Brad Beal will find his way into the lineup alongside Rutger transfer Mike Rosario. Beal, the Gatorade Player of the Year last year has one of the more beautiful shots in the country already and is considered by many as a top five prospect of the 2011 class. In his first collegiate game, he scored 14 points, despite struggling from three point land. Many scouts have compared him to Ray Allen, and he has the complete game like the former UConn star. He plays off the screen extremely well, and finds ways to not only score, but get open all over the court. If he evolves into a playmaker with the basketball and stays in the program, he could easily finish his career as one of the most revered players in Gator history.
And he has the ego that betters his team.
Though he got the start in game one, he might fall into a sixth man role down the line. Rosario, who saw just as many minutes of the bench against Jackson State, brings a whole different set of weapons to the table. After sitting out last season, the senior has worked on becoming a balanced player. As a Scarlet Knight, the game-plan was drawn around him. In his last season at Rutgers, he scored 20 or more points nine times. The fact of the matter is that Rosario adds yet another weapon at the guard position that will force coach Donovan to play small. It also makes him wonder how in the heck he’ll spread the basketball around with so many scorers at the guard position. Yet again, this is Florida, and there is never a deficit of scorers.
In the frontcourt is where this team has some weaknesses. Erik Murphy and Patric Young return. Murphy with some serious issues in front of him, after being charged with burglary in April. His plea bargain gets through the season, and it’s a good thing. After losing their three biggest big man from last year’s team, Donovan reinstated Murphy after he was placed on suspension. He brings another sharp shooter to the starting lineup. Just last season, in limited playing time, he shot 12-30 from three point land. Donovan compares him to a Matt Bonner type, which plays well into the Ohio State defensive scheme. He still has to work on his post up game and is a bit raw. The Gators are hoping that he can be a consistent rebounder, but that has yet to be seen. He struggled in the opener against Jackson State to find some consistency, and he will more than likely play away from Jared Sullinger on defense.
Patric Young is another pure talent that Billy Donovan hopes peaks in his sophomore campaign. The five star recruit a year ago became frustrated sitting behind seniors Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin. He has the real ability to take over a game on both sides of the floor with his physicality. He will be given the challenge of Jared Sullinger on defense.
With so many guards able to score, it will be imperative to see a defensive stud step up for the Buckeyes alongside Aaron Craft. If you give any four of these Gators open space, they are going to slash, dash, and drop treys all over the place. If Lenzelle Smith Jr. can put enough pressure on Kenny Boynton early and get him out of a rhythm, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Craft playing off the point on either Beal or Mike Rosario. Offensively, It will be key to move the ball away from Kenny Boynton. I like the chances of doing so if he’s guarding Aaron Craft, but with the motion and success this team has had off the screen in the past, William Buford will have a stiff challenge in front of him. If the Buckeyes can move the ball like they should, it won’t matter though as shooters will get open.
It’s time to see what this team really has early in the season.
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