"I don't know if I look at it as a measuring stick as much as I do look at it as a different challenge right now," Donovan said. "We're playing against a team that is without question one of the best teams in the SEC and one of the best teams in the country. They've got a great inside/outside combination and they're playing very well. I think it's another experience that will help our guys in their growth and development as a team going forward."
The thing that has made Vandy better this year is the addition of 6-11 Australian A.J. Ogilvy who is averaging 18.5 points and 6.8 rebounds. Pair him with sharp shooting small forward Shan Foster (20.1/4.9) and you have the inside/outside combo Donovan was referring to. The Gator coach talked about what challenges in dealing with the big Aussie brings.
"I think he's without question one of the best players in the country in the frontcourt," Donovan said. "He has maybe impacted Vanderbilt's team as much as any freshman has impacted any team across the country. He's got great hands. He can drive it. He's a guy to me who posts and seals and scores before he ever catches the basketball. I think like a Patrick Patterson and like a Dominique Archie against Ogilvy. Marreese is going against a really good frontcourt player that he'll have to be ready to go against."
"I don't think that Marreese can guard this guy by himself. He's going to need some help. I don't think the onus falls on Marreese to keep Ogilvy from catching the ball at certain places on the court. It's got to be a group effort. Just like it's got to be a group effort on Shan Foster. We can't just put one guy on him and say go ahead and stop him and shut him out."
Vanderbilt starts three seniors in forward Ross Neltner (8.3/5.4) and guard Alex Gordon (10.6) in addition to Foster. That experience should make the Commodores a very solid team away form home, but so far they are winless in two SEC road games. Vandy fell to Kentucky and Tennessee and they were out muscled in the paint in both contests.
The Gators need to make this game physical, even though Vandy is the older, more physically mature basketball team. The extra day to prepare should come in handy since Donovan needs all the time he can get to show his young squad all the different things Vandy coach Kevin Stallings might throw at them.
"When you have a very smart, cerebral group that has a high skill level you can be a little more innovative and creative offensively," Donovan said. "So there's a lot to get prepared for. We're probably not going to be able to give our guys the entire package because we could big them down mentally. I think the first thing we have to do is have a level of energy, enthusiasm and excitement. One of the challenges for our coaching staff is to try to find a way to do some things to slow them down a little bit with all the points they can score and how they shoot it beyond the three point line."
Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel