Both teams start the season off with a bang. Following two straights seasons in which the Gators missed a trip to the Final Four by ten minutes (blown leads to Butler and Louisville in the Elite Eight), Billy Donovan and Co. seem to be on a mission to redeem themselves. Florida is well deserving of its preseason #10 ranking, as it returns three starters, including 64% of its scoring and 71% of its rebounding. Despite the losses of senior point guard Erving Walker and freshman phenom Brad Beal, the Gators have an impressive core of veterans, led by 6’2’’ senior Kenny Boynton (15.9 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.7 apg) and 6’9’’ junior Patric Young (10.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg).
Boynton and Young should form one of the best duos in the country. Boynton, a streaky shooter, is decent off the dribble, but is at his best when he is in transition or when he has enough time to set his feet and shoot from beyond the arc. He led the team last year in scoring and three-point field goals. Patric Young, who is built like a truck, is a load to deal with in the paint. He led the Gators last year in offensive rebounds, but he doesn’t have good hands and doesn’t shoot well from outside the paint (and shoots only 59% from the line). Still, Young is a force inside, and the young Hoyas would do well to deny him the ball and prevent him from getting easy putbacks.
Joining Boynton in the backcourt is fifth-year senior Mike Rosario, a 6’3’’ transfer from Rutgers, who shoots exceptionally well from the perimeter and is also very good in transition. Rosario’s numbers from last year are deceiving. He struggled coming off the bench and played most of the season with nagging injuries. Expect him to start throughout this season, and to be a major factor against the Hoyas. Fortunately for the Hoyas, Florida will be without Scottie Wilbekin, a 6’2’’ junior, who is supposed to replace Erving Walker as the Gators’ point guard. Wilbekin was suspended for Friday’s game for violating team rules. Florida will have to rely on some combination of Boynton and Rosario to bring the ball up the court, even though neither player has ever been a point guard. Also look for freshman Braxton Ogbueze to see some action.
Joining Young in the frontcourt are two solid juniors: Erik Murphy (10.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and Will Yeguete (4.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg). Murphy, at 6’10’’, has a sneaky good face-up game and is not afraid to shoot it from the perimeter (he connected on 59 threes last year). Murphy has also become a pretty good defender and should pose problems for Hopkins and Nate in the middle. Yeguete, at 6’7’’, improved steadily over the course of last season. He was arguably Florida’s best defender until an injury sidelined him towards the end of the season. Like Young, Yeguete lacks finesse in the paint and scores most of his points on layups and putbacks. He struggles mightily from the perimeter and the free throw line (35.9%). Lucky for Georgetown, the Gators will also be without Casey Prather, a 6’6’’ junior, who is one of Florida’s better defenders and rebounders. Prather has been suffering from concussion-related symptoms.
Keys to the Game:
1. Holding Serve in the Paint: With Patric Young, Erik Murphy and Will Yeguete, Florida has one of the better frontcourts in the country. In their first challenge without Henry Sims, frontcourt guys like Hopkins, Lubick and Otto will need to step up their games on both sides of the floor. Young and Yeguete struggle from the perimeter, so the Hoyas should keep those two away from the basket. On the other hand, Murphy is most dangerous when he roams free outside the paint. Someone will have to keep an eye on him at all times. When the Hoyas have the ball, they can’t be afraid to work the ball inside. This will be a major test for Hopkins and Nate, but it will give this young Georgetown team a real sense of where it stands.
2. Perimeter Shooting: Without Hollis and Jason, someone will need to hit threes for the Hoyas to ensure there is enough balance, and also so Florida’s defenders don’t cheat on the inside. Who will step up? My money’s on Markel.
3. Perimeter Defense: Boynton and Rosario can both stroke it from the perimeter. Georgetown’s perimeter defenders need to force them to put the ball on the floor and not allow open looks. I’m eager to see Cool Whitt swat some of that garbage away.
4. Florida’s Lack of Depth: Given the absence of Wilbekin and Prather, Florida will rely primarily on five guys. These guys are all veterans, but the Gators won’t be particularly deep on Friday night. If a lot of fouls are called in this game, Georgetown should have the advantage. If Young heads to the bench early, it will be a huge bonus.
5. Who Will Press?: Like Louisville, Florida is known for pressing its opponents for long stretches of the game. But with a short bench, can Florida afford having its players get tired too soon? On the other side, Georgetown is not known as a pressing team, but that may change on Friday night. Florida won’t have its point guard, and it may be a difficult adjustment for Rosario and Boynton to handle. With a deeper team, JTIII may consider employing more pressure in the backcourt.
The 2006 loss to Florida in the Sweet Sixteen still feels like yesterday. Georgetown presented the Gators with its toughest challenge of the Tournament that year, but now, it’s just a reminder of what could’ve been. Here’s hoping that Corey Brewer doesn’t make any ridiculous three-point plays, and that Darrel Owens hits that wide open three from the top of the key.
I have no idea what to expect on Friday night. So for now, I’ll just expect to dominate. Let’s get this season started off the right way by upsetting the #10 team in the country on its "neutral" battleship. I want Jabril to get angry.
Let's go Hoyas. Beat Florida.