Aztecs Provide Some Challenges

One of the good things about being in the NIT is that the Gators will not be facing a team with significantly superior personnel whether they play one game in college basketball's runner-up tournament or five. Most NIT games come down to effort, interest and commitment, three things which Billy Donovan is still trying to instill in his young squad.

San Diego State will visit the O'Dome Wednesday night and Florida goes into the contest with two significant built in advantages. The Gators get to play the game at home, and the Aztecs have to fly all the way across the country.

The teams have rather similar resumes. The Gators are 21-11; the Aztecs are 20-and-12. Florida went 8-and-8 in the SEC; the Aztecs posted a 9-7 mark in the Mountain West Conference. Each team has one non-conference win over a team in the NCAA Tournament. Florida beat Temple, while San Diego State beat cross town rival San Diego.

San Diego State is not a particularly big team, with no significant player over 6-8, but they have a number of capable players in the 6-5 - 6-8 range. They are a decent rebounding team (plus-3) and they rebound by committee with five guys grabbing between 4.8 and 6.5 a night. They are an average shooting team both from two-point (.444) and three-point (.330) range.

The offense is balanced with the leading scorer, Lorenzo Wade (14.9/4.6) one of three regulars averaging in double figures. He's joined in that category by Kyle Spain (13.2/5.4) and Ryan Amoroso (11.2/6.5), but Spain has been suspended for the rest of the season leaving the Aztecs without their best three-points shooter. Amoroso is a wide body (6-8, 257) who will challenge Marreese Speights to work on both ends of the court. A key guy in this game will be point guard D.J. Gay who is their primary ball handler and someone the Gators will try to take it away from.

Only the Second Meeting

There's little history between the schools as you might expect. Florida lost to San Diego State in a tournament in Las Vegas in 1985 despite 19 points from Vernon Maxwell in the one previous get together. Also, four years ago Mohamed Abukar transferred from the Gators to the Aztecs.

One interesting side light to this one is that it matches up two coaches who have won NCAA Championships. Steve Fisher began his head coaching career in the 1989 tournament when Michigan Athletic Director Bo Schembechler put him in charge and dismissed Bill Frieder who had accepted the Arizona State job, saying "A Michigan man will coach Michigan". The Wolverines gave Fisher the most amazing 6-0 start any coach has even opened with. Fisher is now in his ninth season at San Diego State. This is their fifth post-season bid and third NIT.

Questions or comments? Contact's Larry Vettel

Fightin Gators Top Stories