Winthrop went to the NCAA Tournament last year; their eighth trip to the big dance in 10 years. And I had just watched the Eagles knock off then 19th-ranked Miami in this very event a year ago.
But this is not the same team. Not by a long shot. The Eagles lost their top three scorers of last season's Big South Conference championship team and their one returning big guy (over 6-8) was injured in the pre-season. The result has been nine losses in ten games heading into Sunday night's meeting with the Gators.
One useful thing might be to compare scores Sunday night with two future Gator opponents. South Carolina beat Winthrop 86-63, while North Carolina State leveled a 74-48 beating on them. If Florida struggles in this one it could potentially be a cause for concern. Of course post holiday games are always difficult to predict. Some teams come back refreshed and rarin' to go. Others come back all fat and happy.
The Gators come into this one on a roll offensively. Florida has averaged 90.3 points a game in its last three outings. The Gators are also coming off a rough game defensively that saw Georgia Southern rally from down 19 to get within three points on Monday night. Those Eagles ended up with 48 points in the second half, something the Gators can not afford to let happen.
Calathes Cruisin' ----- Florida point guard Nick Calathes has committed just five turnovers in the last three games. He's done that while dishing out 24 assists. On the year he's dishing out 6.8 assists a game and has a better than two-to-one assist/turnover ratio.
Krazy Kadji ----- Freshman center Kenny Kadji has been something in this Gator offensive run. The native of Cameroon has come off the bench to average 9.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in the last three games. In Florida's first eight contests Kadji had managed just 2.4/1.4 respectively.
Tremendous Tyus ----- No Gator has improved more from year one to year two than Alex Tyus. In a jump reminiscent of Joakim Noah's second season at UF, Tyus is averaging 14.5 points and 6.7 rebounds. Last year those numbers were just a bit different (4.3/2.6).
Parsons Progress ----- Sophomore forward Chandler Parsons had struggled in his first five games as a starter. Yet he had thrived in the five games when he came off the bench, making many feel that was a better role for him. However he reversed that trend with a strong performance against Georgia Southern with 14 points' seven rebounds and five assists. He still needs to figure out his shooting mechanics, having made just 9-of-38 (.237) three point shots.
Lunch with the Hatters ----- The Gators return home for a "nooner" of sorts on Tuesday. Florida will host the Stetson Hatters in a 1:00 game in the O'Dome.
Sunday's game is part of a doubleheader on Fox Sports Florida. FSU plays Western Kentucky at 4:00 followed by the Gators and Eagles around 6:30 or thereabouts. Bill Koss joins me for the call of the Gator game.
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