VETTEL: Gator Hoops Can't Lose vs. Miami

I'm not saying the Gators are a lock to beat the Miami Hurricanes in Coral Gables. But I am saying Florida is in a situation where the Gators have virtually nothing to lose in this matchup. On the surface, that sounds bizarre. Since when does an unbeaten, top-five team have nothing to lose against unranked state rival with something to prove? Granted, the opposite would be true nine times out of 10 but this is the odd time when the pressure is all on the "lesser" squad.

How Can That Be?

Funny you should ask. My reasoning comes from putting this game in the context of pre-season expectations. Florida entered the year having lost three stars from the previous season and many wondered if the Gators would be capable of continuing its succession of 20-win seasons and NCAA bids. Miami on the other hand entered this season with high hopes. The 'Canes won 16 games under first year coach Frank Haith and returned seven of their top eight scorers from that team. Miami was considered a strong candidate to return to the NCAA Tournament after a three-year absence.

Yet, Florida has already exceeded expectations with a 10-0 start highlighted by winning the Coaches Vs. Cancer tournament. Most would have picked Florida to go 10-4 or 11-3 in its non-conference schedule, but now 13-1 seems like the worst it could be.

Miami on the other hand has already suffered four losses and has struggled without point guard Anthony Harris. Harris' injury disrupted Miami's three-guard attack, and despite the remarkable skills of Guillermo Diaz and Robert Hite, the 'Canes have come up short to Air Force, Temple, Michigan and most recently North Carolina State. Harris has returned and did play against the Wolfpack, but he looked rusty and maybe a tad slow. The 'Canes desperately need a meaningful win heading into Atlantic Coast Conference play, and Florida provides a perfect opportunity in front of a sold-out convocation center.

Billy Donovan on the Hurricanes

"I don't think we have faced three guards like these three guys we're going to face here on Thursday," said Donovan. "They're all very gifted, they are very talented and they have speed. I would even classify them as having four guards, because they are going to play (Denis) Clemente the freshman back there too and he has great speed and quickness. On their front court, I think (Anthony) King is an improved basketball player from a year ago. So I think when you look at their team; there's not too many teams in the country who have the speed, the quickness and the athleticism and the ability to score off the dribble, off the catch like those three guys can.

"We've faced a McNamara (Syracuse), we've faced Justin Gray and Strickland (Wake Forest) but I don't know if we've faced three guys like these at this point in time. One team that would come to mind would be Kentucky with (Rajan) Rondo, Patrick Sparks, Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford, but I think their backcourt is very talented. With the way they play, their front court doesn't get a lot of publicity or the type of attention their backcourt does, but they are a very good, complete team. I don't think their record (6-4) is an indication of where they're at because they had to play a number of games (7) without Harris. That's a big loss when you lose your point guard, the guy that's your general on your team and the guy you're relying on. Since they've gotten him back I'm sure they'll all re-settle back into their roles."

Donovan on Gators Being Ranked # 5

"I don't think the polls make a lot of sense. In my opinion, I don't see how we can be a team that was unranked six weeks ago to a team that is now fifth in the country. Us moving into the top 25 I certainly thought was very justified because we played two teams that were ranked going into the season, that a lot of people thought were going to be good teams and we beat them on a neutral site. So when we moved into 15 or 18 or whatever it was, I get that. To me when Duke plays against Texas in a neutral site game and one plays two, they shouldn't move in the polls. Texas shouldn't drop.

"I think by default we moved up. We moved in because we earned being in, but we moved up by default in my opinion because we have not played against a ranked team since we played against Syracuse back in November. We benefited maybe off from other schools playing against another ranked team. I think sometimes the way our system is set up, when you play against a ranked team and you're ranked and you lose I don't think that you should drop as much as sometimes teams drop. Teams get a chance to move up based on that, but I'm not really wrapped up in that and I'm not wrapped up in being 10-0."

Donovan on Trying to set School-Record 11th Straight

"I think one of the things you're always looking to do when you're a player is to have a level of significance in your program. You want to do something as a team that has never been done before. I would certainly like to be celebrating and talking more about the things we accomplish at the end of the year rather than earlier in the year. But to be the only team in the history of the school to go 11-0 that would be great for those guys going into the record book and this team would be remembered for having the best start ever. But it doesn't give you a NCAA tournament bid; it doesn't give you a SEC Championship it doesn't give you anything else other than for the school."

Keep those emails coming!

Don't forget to email me your questions and comments, but please do not include attachments! My email address is: vettel@gatorcountry.com .

I look forward to you joining me on the radio, Sunday nights from 6:00-to-8:00 on Gainesville's WSKY-FM 97.3 (877/975-9825 toll free)

Have a great week.


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