And Conference Play Begins

Alabama Men's basketball team (11-4) plays host Tuesday at 8pm CST to the Florida Gators (13-2) who are the two-time defending National Champions. This is the conference opener for both teams and featured on ESPN. This is not the same Florida team that has dominated the college basketball scene as they are young, but talented.

Coach Billy Donovan has nurtured this team with a schedule that consisted of 11 home games (10-1), three neutral site games (3-0), and one true road test in a loss to Ohio State 62-49.

With a strength of schedule in the 300's, the Gators are 1-2 verses BCS conference teams with the lonely win against Rutgers. Florida has kept the same starting five thus far this season in Nick Calathes (6-6, freshman guard/forward), Walter Hodge (6-0, junior guard), Jai Lucas (5-11, freshman guard), Dan Werner (6-7, sophomore forward), and Marreese Speights (6-10, sophomore center/forward).

Offensively, the Gators average 80.9 points per game with leading scorers Calathes and Speights averaging 14.8 and 14.5 respectfully. Florida's shooting percentages are 51.3 percent from the field, 39.4 (119-302) percent from the three point line, and 70.7 percent from the free throw line.

From the predominantly nine man rotation, seven players have made multiple three pointers. The Gators distributes the ball at the rate of 17.9 assists and 12.5 turnovers per game.

On defense, Florida holds their opponents to 60.5 points per game with the opposition shooting 41 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from the arc. The Gators average 6.5 steals and 3.6 blocks per game while forcing their opponents into 14.3 turnovers per game.

Florida has a 7.6 rebounding margin over the opposition with 37.5 rebounds per game to 29.9 rebounds per game for their opponents.

For Bama, man-to-man is the weapon of choice against the Gator shooters. Florida's offense revolves around the three point shot as their two losses reflect an identical poor shooting performance to the tune of 4-23 (17.4 percent) in both games.

The key match-up in the Tide's defensive effort is Richard Hendrix on Speights. Hendrix should keep him in check to allow Bama's defense to cover up the Gator shooters.

Alabama's offense also needs a good shooting performance in order for their success against the Florida pressure. The Tide's early attempts from the arc need to go down to open up the inside game for Hendrix. If Hendrix can get Speights into foul trouble, look out, because there is no one behind him.

The Tide ball handlers need to refocus to keep the turnovers to a minimum as it could be a costly stat. Bama needs to keep this game to a half-court affair while running the offense, and allowing Richard and Company to do their damage.

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