Offense will be important in Alabama's game at Florida. Tipoff Saturday will be at 3 p.m. EST (2 p.m. CST) with regional television coverage by Jefferson- Pilot. But when Tide Coach Mark Gottfried presents his scouting report to Crimson Tide players, it will emphasize defense.
The game matches two teams that were expected in the pre-season to challenge for division championships. Alabama currently leads the Southeastern Conference Western Division with a 6-1 record. The Tide is 17-3 overall and ranked 11th in the nation. Florida has dropped out of the national rankings, but the Gators are 13-5 overall and 5-2 in SEC Eastern Division play, second behind Kentucky.
Alabama did not have a mid-week game this week. Florida went to Mississippi State Tuesday night and was beaten, 71-57, by the Bulldogs.
"It starts with (Florida junior guard) Anthony Roberson," Gottfried said. "Who are you going to put on him? We may defend him by committee." He added that senior forward David Lee "has been in this league four years and is a good player." Bama's coach also noted the effectiveness of freshman small forward Corey Brewer. "He's going to be a great player in this league," Gottfried said. He also noted young players like freshman Al Horford (6-8, 235) who starts at center for the Gators. Additionally, junior guard Matt Walsh, who missed some playing time with injury, is back in the starting line-up.
"(Florida Coach) Billy Donovan does as good a job as anyone in the country in recruiting nationally," Gottfried said
Alabama will go to Florida with some confidence. Part of that comes from Bama having had success on the road and Florida having suffered three of its five losses in Gainesville.
Alabama has won its last three SEC road games. Gottfried said, "You have to be a good team to win on the road consistently. I think our team has some confidence on the road. There are no guarantees, but I think our players expect to win when they go outside our building."
Gottfried said the Tide has been playing better defense. "But we need to be better," he said. "That's what makes you a good team. As our defense has gotten better, we haven't been running as much. I think we can run better. But I think our emphasis has been where it needs to be-on guarding people."
And while most think of Florida's offense, Gottfried said, "We know they are going to press us pretty much the whole game."
Alabama has been averaging 78.7 points per game, while holding opponents to 65.5 points per game. The Gators have averaged 80.7 points, Florida opponents 64.5. Bama is shooting 48.6 per cent from the field and holding opponents to 40.7 per cent, while Florida hits 50.6 per cent and allows 41.7 per cent. Alabama is averaging 38.4 rebounds per game and giving up 31.3, a margin of 7.2, while Florida is averaging 37.4, giving up 30.7, a margin of 6.8. Florida is best in the SEC in scoring and shooting percentage while the Crimson Tide is second in the league in both categories.
The game will have seven of the league's top 20 scorers. Roberson is second at 18.1, Alabama's Kennedy Winston fourth at 17.8, the Tide's Earnest Shelton fifth at 17.4, Bama's Chuck Davis 13th at 13.9, Walsh 15th at 13.4, and Lee 20th at 12.5.