Gators' Opener No Gimme

I'm sure that most fans look at the Gator Basketball schedule and figure the opening game with North Dakota State is just about a sure thing. Well in the immortal words of Lee Corso, not so fast my friends!

North Dakota State is a good team, one that beat both Princeton and Marquette at Marquette last year and Wisconsin the previous season. The Bison come into Gainesville off a 23-win season a year ago with all but one player back from that squad. The team is in its final year of transition from Division II to Division I, but that doesn't mean they can't play.

The one thing that stands out is that they are a good shooting team. A team that can put the ball in the hole always has a chance. NDSU also has decent size, depth and athleticism. They are a team Florida must be prepared for.

Great Wake Up Calls

Even though this group of Gators hasn't accomplished much at this level, the bottom is that Florida remains the two-time defending NCAA Champs, and even if these guys had little if anything to do with that, it would be easy to get a big head about their status. But that is being taken care of.

Billy Donovan has to be thrilled at some of the early results this season in that they deliver major messages to his guys. Ohio State lost to Findlay in an exhibition game and Michigan State did the same thing in coming up short against Grand Valley State. Of course the ultimate wake up call came from Lexington where the Kentucky Wildcats were ripped by Gardner Webb by the score of 84-68. That game was not an exhibition and will count on the ‘Kats record this year.

No amount of preaching can replace those results in making the players aware that it's not about the name on the jersey, it's the player wearing it. Florida's youngsters have to know that loud and clear.

Things to Look For

Speights can be great ---
North Dakota State really doesn't have anyone who can check Florida's big man in the post or run with him in transition. Then again, not many people do.

Sophomores need to step up --- While Speights has made it clear he's ready to be a big part of the Gators' plans, sophomore forward Dan Werner and Jonathan Mitchell have not. Those guys in many ways are the keys to this team's development so that Florida can ride the ups and downs that invariably come from freshmen.

Freshmen must show poise --- This rookie class is really good, but this is their opening night and there are bound to be nerves. The most important thing they must do is go out there and compete, which to me, is not a concern. The second highest priority is taking care of the basketball. If they do that, they'll be fine.

See you at the O'Dome.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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