Rutgers a Bigger Test

After three wins to start the season, the Florida Gators will face their best opponent to date when Rutgers visits the O'Connell Center Saturday night. Both teams are 3-0 in the Blue Ribbon Classic, but while there is no true "tournament" format, the winner gets to claim the "championship."

Looking at the comparative scores, Florida should be a solid favorite. The two schools played the same three teams already, and the Gators have been more impressive. Florida outscored the three teams by an average score of 91-60, while Rutgers managed a 74-60 edge. That makes Florida a 17-point favorite.

However, those scores are a bit deceiving. Rutgers played the three games in four days, while Florida spread the contests out over six. That means Florida was a better rested team for two of the games. Against the best team of the group, North Dakota State, Rutgers (79-67) had a slightly better result than the Gators (75-65) did.

Size Up Front is Key

The thing that makes Rutgers a more difficult team for Florida is the presence of three legit big bodies, something the first three teams did not have. Hamady N'Diaye is a 6-11 sophomore who is a good rebounder (6.7) and shot blocker (11), but not much of an offensive threat (3.7). He's backed up by a burly fifth year senior Byron Joynes who has the same offensive and defensive averages as N'Diaye and will give Florida's Marreese Speights plenty to deal with over 40 minutes.

The third guy up front is Rutgers' best player; 6-9 forward J.R. Inman who is averaging 21 points and 8.3 rebounds. Inman is a long, agile forward who can score from three point range and in the paint. It'll be up to Dan Werner and Alex Tyus to deal with him most of the time. It's nothing new for Werner, however having played against him in high school four years ago.

While those three guys handle the post positions, Rutgers has a group of guards who share duty in their three-guard alignment. The starters are Jaron Griffin (10.0), Anthony Farmer (12.0) and Corey Chandler (13.3) who combine for 35 points a game. They have two guys off the bench who also chip in, Courtney Nelson and Mike Coburn. Two years ago Coburn was the point guard for the New York State Champs from Mt. Vernon. Their MVP was none other than Florida's Jonathan Mitchell.

Rutgers is not a great team, certainly. They are probably better than last year when the Scarlet Knights posted a 10-19 record and lost 13 of 16 contests in the Big East Conference. They do pose a legit challenge for the Gators however, especially with a big enough, talented enough front court that can require Marreese Speights to raise his game.

Questions or comments? Contact's Larry Vettel

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