Florida Gators basketball (5-1) has been so thrown by suspensions, enrollment issues, and injuries that a former team manager has played half the team's minutes. For Florida State (5-1) fans, that's the good news. The bad news is that this team is still loaded - it features two healthy and not-suspended former 5* recruits as well as a host of other consensus top 100 players. They have four seniors who will get major minutes tonight, and their experience in Billy Donovan's hard-nosed, pressing defense currently has them as the No. 4 defense in the nation. Offensively, they've been solid, though un-Gatorlike and come in with No. 38 rated attack.
It starts in the middle with 6-6 senior Casey Prather, who has emerged as a star this year. This has taken a lot of the national media by surprise, but it's also just what happens when you consistently have around 10 consensus top 100 players on your roster. Prather was a high 4* who has developed for three years. Now he's averaging 19.2 points per game, and is a huge beneficiary of the new rules, averaging nearly seven free throws per game.
6-9 senior Patric Young is the opposite of Prather, in that game hasn't improved a whit since he arrived on campus, but he's an academic all-star, he devotes a ton of his time to helping kids, he respects his opponents, and he plays tough. So you can't hate him, even if he is a Gator. If Kiel Turpin doesn't play tonight, FSU will have a tough time dealing with him on the interior. In last year's game Florida grabbed 45% of their own misses, and if that happens again just start drinking and get ready for some football.
Dorian Finney-Smith, the 5* Virginia Tech transfer who began the year suspended, is averaging 13.2 points and 8.2 rebounds in just 22 minutes per game. After being overwhelmed as a freshman, he sat out last season and now looks like the player everyone expected. Well, sort of.
Finney-Smith, former top-tier recruit balling for Florida, is a good reminder that Donovan's recruiting need not be five-stars to be great.— Alligator Army (@AlligatorArmy) November 22, 2013
. @AlligatorArmy except he's a 5*— Run the Floor (@RunTheFloor) November 22, 2013
Sophomore guard Michael Frazier is averaging over 15 points a game, and has been the Gators only high-volume 3-pt shooter. They have plenty of guys who can make them, but oddly the Gators are 286th in 3-pt FGA%, as they've found it easier to get it done on the inside. Senior Scottie Wilibekin is another threat, though he's only played one game since coming back from suspension after PG Kasey Hill hurt his ankle. It's the 2nd straight season Wilbekin began the season suspended.
With Wilbekin back, UF's defense will be even better. They press and pressure the ballhandler at all times, and are 25th in the nation at generating steals. Devon Bookert has been up and down vs the press this year, and the Noles need a good game out of him tonight.
The key for FSU will be keeping UF off of the offensive glass. These games can snowball, and to keep that from happening you need stops. When UF makes a bucket they can press, that leads to turnovers, which leads to more easy buckets... Controlling the defensive glass not only keeps that from happening, but it lets FSU do what they're comfortable doing, which is getting out in transition. Like always, the Gators want a grinding game, and this year they're playing slower than 301 Division I teams. FSU is the 40th fastest team in the nation. In the two games FSU hasn't been able to control the tempo, they lost in OT to Michigan, and squeaked one out vs Northeastern.
The game tips at 7:30 on ESPN2. Pomeroy has UF -10. The Vegas line is -8.