Lineup puzzle increasing production

Florida head coach Billy Donovan will be in a position he has been in just once all season when the Gators tip off at Arizona on Saturday. He'll have his entire roster available. No suspensions, no concussions, no nagging injuries. The only other time that happened was before Florida's 33-point pummeling of Marquette. The full roster means Donovan has plenty of chess pieces to play.

It's a puzzle that even Donovan admits he doesn't have figured out. And that's still a good thing. It's a luxury that comes with having a deep roster, something the Gators haven't had in a long time. Gone are the days when Florida is forced to desperately sign players like Nimrod Tishman from Israel so that the team has a backup point guard.

It's now a challenge to find the right matchup because of the added depth the Gators have. There are eight Florida players averaging at least 13 minutes this season, but it's more about the versatile lineups he can throw on the floor. The return of Casey Prather has helped that, as the Gators have put him on the floor to play shooting guard, small forward and power forward this year. It all comes down to what Donovan sees from the opposition.

"Who you're playing against and what's going on dictates that," Billy Donovan said. "We went on a really good run against Florida State when we went big towards the end of the first half. We had some possessions playing Prather at the two-guard spot with Boynton (at point guard) and Yeguete, Murphy and Young up front. That gave us some really good, quality minutes.

"A lot of it depends on fatigue, foul trouble and matchups with the other team."

Erik Murphy's versatility to play power forward and center helps the front line, while his three-point shooting ability can create havoc for the opposing defenses. The early season suspension of Scottie Wilbekin forced Will Yeguete into the starting lineup because Donovan decided to start two guards and force Yeguete to learn how to play the small forward. That knowledge has added depth.

The Gators can play small with three guards or they can play big with Yeguete, Murphy and Young in the frontcourt. Depth and versatility are big reasons the Gators have gotten off to a 7-0 start.

"It makes it hard for teams to prepare," Wilbekin said. "Every different lineup we have is effective, so they have to prepare for each, whether it's big, four guards or three guards. It keeps them on their toes."

Regardless of the lineup on the floor, the Gators have been able to play strong defense this year. Florida's 48.3 points per game allowed is second best in the country. The team's overall athleticism and veteran experience has helped the group take the next step defensively this year.

Even with all the moving parts that can happen on the floor during a game, it's a disciplined group on the defensive end of the floor.

"Our defense is what it is with us," Murphy said. "We've had some good defensive numbers and try to take away things that we see teams like to do and are comfortable with. That's helped us so far."

Fightin Gators Top Stories