Gators Face No. 2 Spartans on the Boardwalk

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Happy Thanksgiving from Atlantic City! Here among the casinos is where on Friday night the Gator Basketball team has a chance to take a big step towards a return to national prominence. Florida will face second ranked Michigan State in the second round of an event called the Legend's Classic.

State is an outstanding team with what I consider the best three man backcourt in the country. The trio of Kalin Lucas (16.8), Durrell Summers (14.5) and Chris Allen (12.8) give Coach Tom Izzo superb offense and defense on the perimeter. Lucas is the reigning Big Ten player of the year and runs the show about as well as anyone. Lindy's ranks him the No. 1 point guard in the country. Korie Lucious makes it a quartet with six points and 5.7 assists a game off the bench.

The perimeter players are ably supported by forwards Draymond Green (10/8.5), Raymar Morgan (8.3/4.0) and Delvon Roe (5/9). The only real question for this team is at center where they lost three players off last year's NCAA runner up. Freshman Garrick Sherman (2.7/2.0) has yet to show he can play at that level.

State comes in at 4-0 with the most notable win being a 75-71 decision over Gonzaga in an excellent ballgame. Izzo has historically played very difficult non-conference schedules with excellent results. After facing the Gators his team faces road games At North Carolina (12/1) and Texas (12/22) prior to Big Ten play.


A few weeks ago you might have expected the Gators to approach this game with trepidation and fear of embarrassment, but not now. Florida is feeling very good about itself after Tuesday's 68-52 win over Florida State. The Gators set about making certain they would be a better defensive team and rebound the ball better this year. After four games they are certainly on track.

Florida's out rebounded its first four opponents by an average of nine a night. That includes losing the boards battle with FSU by one. Rebounding will be critical against the Spartans who are annually a superb team on the glass. Michigan State led the nation a year ago at plus 9.3 rebounds a night. That's the third time they've done that in the last 10 years.

As for the defense, Florida opponents are averaging just 51 points a night and are shooting a dismal 33 percent from the field. It will a very interesting to see if they can force State into a sub par performance.

The Gators would also like to start shooting the ball better. Florida has made just 43 percent from the field and 26 percent from behind the arc. The stating backcourt of Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton is a stunning 8-45 (.178) from long range.

The game is at 8:00 p.m. and can be seen on Fox Sports Florida in the Northern part of the state and Sun Sports in South Florida.


The Gators and Spartans met for the NCAA Title back in 2000 with Michigan State scoring an 89-76 win. The Spartans shot very well that night, making half their three-pointers and almost 60 percent of their 2s. Florida got an incredible 27-point effort from Udonis Haslem and a double double from Brent Wright (13/10) but it wasn't enough.

Two years later they met again in the NCAA tournament. This time it was in the second round in Tampa, but again Michigan State was the winner 68-46. That was the year Matt Bonner suffered from plantar fasciatis in his foot and was not able to play up to his normal level (15/7) and Anthony Roberson and Brett Nelson combined to go 0-10 from 3-point range.

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