Gators preparing for road test at Alabama

Florida coach Billy Donovan has used a consistent message with his team this week. He doesn't want No. 6 Florida to pay any attention to the 8-9 record next to Alabama's name. The Crimson Tide have played one of the toughest schedules in the country and won both Southeastern Conference games played at Coleman Coliseum this season.

Then there's the challenge Florida faces every time it hits the road this season. The Gators are currently No. 6 in the country and are the top program in the conference. Whenever they go on the road, they're going to get every team's best shot. It was evident on Saturday at Auburn, when the Tigers gave the Gators a tough game after losing 19 of their previous 20 conference games coming into Saturday.

It's a challenge Florida will face on the road, especially against a team that Billy Donovan believes is better than its record. The Crimson Tide have faced Duke, Oklahoma, Wichita State, Xavier and UCLA this season and are 0-5 in those games.

"They've played the most difficult schedule of anybody in our league based on computer rankings and what other teams have done, so I don't think their record is any indication of what kind of team they are," Donovan said. "When you play against really good teams anything can happen."

Senior guard Trevor Releford, averaging 18.3 points this year, leads Alabama. He makes the Crimson Tide offense work and has throughout his career under Anthony Grant.

"He's been clearly one of the best point guards in this league since he's come in here," Donovan said. "He had an incredible freshman year and has played very, very well. He's really a guy that does a lot of different things. He shoots the three. He's really developed that part of his game, he gets in the lane. He's as good of a guard in the country, in my opinion, when he gets in the lane at finishing around the basket. He gets assists, he knows how to play, he's experienced, he's logged a lot of minutes and he's clearly one of the better point guards in our league."

The tape shows Florida what Releford can do. He can score and do the damage on his own, but he thrives by setting up his teammates. Donovan credited his ability to make the game easier for Alabama's perimeter shooters and big men.

"When he is scoring and distributing, they become a very difficult team to defend," Donovan said. "It stops and starts with him as a point guard. But if you give him so much attention and leave other guys just wide open or free, those others players are good enough players to make plays as well."

Redshirt sophomore guard Retin Obasohan averages 12.2 points with guard Levi Randolph adding 9.3 points. Junior forward Nick Jacobs is averaging 8.5 points and 3.5 rebounds to give the Crimson Tide a scoring presence inside the paint.

The matchup also forces Donovan to face Grant, a former assistant at Florida and Marshall under Donovan. The Florida coach admitted this week that he doesn't like facing a coach he used to work with, especially one that he has maintained a close relationship with like Grant.

"I think he has done a really good job," Donovan said of Grant at Alabama. "They've been right there at the NCAA tournament the last couple of years. I think Anthony has done an amazing job in a lot of respects."

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