The Florida Gators may not be the power house they once were with the likes of Joakim Noah and Al Horford, but the 2011-2012 version of the Gators possesses an even more potent back court than that of the back-to-back championship teams. Sean Miller will take his Wildcats into a very hostile environment on Wednesday and says that playing a team like Florida will only make the team better.
"We are headed to Gainesville to play a good Florida team that, in their own right, have aspirations of being right there in March," said Miller. "This is a series that will see them come back here to Tucson a year from now that really makes sense for our program. We are really looking forward to a great opportunity and it is going to be a big, big challenge for our basketball team."
Miller says that his friendship with Florida head coach Billy Donovan led to making this home-in-home series which will be challenge for the next two years.
"I do have a relationship with Billy [Donavon]," explained Miller. "I have known him for a long time and I respect him as much as any coach that is in college basketball. That is because of as much who is he as a person and as much success he has had as a coach.
"He was my host on my official visit to Providence college when he I was a senior. That is how our relationship started. I was a senior in high school and he was a senior in college. Like any young player, especially a guard at that time, you really admired who he was as a player because of how hard he worked and how he did it."
While Miller was at Xavier he and Donovan planned to play and Miller left before the matchups happened. The Musketeers and the Gators split the series with each winning on the other team's floor. Miller decided to get the series going now that he is at Arizona.
The mutual friends have experienced their own success including Donovan's two national titles in 2004 and in 2005. Miller says the way that Donovan has run his program is admirable.
"You look at his tenure at one school, especially a program as powerful as Florida I think that says a lot about how to truly run a program," Miller explained. "When you consider where his program is today, and how long he's been there, it is remarkable what he's done."
This current Gators team features a backcourt that rivals any backcourt in the nation. Senior Erving Walker (14.1 ppg) is joined by junior and leading scorer Kenny Boynton (19.0), freshman sensation Bradley Beal (15.6) and junior transfer Mike Rosario (10.6).
Miller says that they all pose a problem for the Wildcats, especially the freshman.
"Right now they have maybe the most efficient offense in the country," said Miller. "If you look at their points per game, how many threes they shoot, their offensive rebounding and their balance. We won't play against a better core group of guards on one team then Florida's. There are three of them on the court at all times and then Mike Rosario comes off the bench for them, who is a terrific player. That is four different guards that can really score and make plays.
"Bradley Beal is the youngest of the group and he may be the most talented. He can really, really shoot the ball and I've seen him play quite a bit as I have seen Nick [Johnson] and Josiah [Turner] play. Those guys have played against each other and he is one of the best freshman guards in the country."
Arizona does have a counter punch to the exceptional backcourt of the Gators as freshmen Josiah Turner has played well and Nick Johnson continues to be a bright spot for the Wildcats. Perhaps Arizona's best player is their do-it-all forward who is playing very well for the 6-2 Wildcats.
"Solomon [Hill] has done a really good job," Miller went on. "If you look at his points per game, 12, eight rebounds, 77 percent from the line and 39 free throw attempts in eight games and he is shooting almost 50 percent from the floor. He is just really a valuable player for us. Minutes per game, he is over 30 right now and he is our team's best player."
Hill's good play earned him Pac-12 Player of the Week honors and Arizona will need a player of the week type performance Wednesday if the Wildcats want to leave Gainesville victorious.
"The fact that he got Pac-12 Player of the Week is an honor that he deserved because I think his performance against New Mexico State was the really, really pivotal performance in our season," said Miller. "I think it will be one that we look back at and say it was a great victory and that he had a lot to do with it."