Gators Prepare For First 'Bracket-Buster'

The SEC schedule called for the Florida Gator basketball team to have this weekend off, but instead Billy Donovan's team will play a critical game against a strong mid-major team. The Musketeers of Xavier come to the O'Dome for one of those "bracket-buster" type games people love to talk about with regards to games like this.

Donovan said playing this weekend is in the Gators' best interests.

"I'm excited that we're playing them because it's just like a league game, basically instead of an off-week. I prefer to have a game because an off week can take you out of your rhythm. To me, sometimes playing a game like this instead of having an off week is a good thing."

While Donovan may like the idea of playing a game this weekend, it sounds like he doesn't agree with the scheduling pressure basketball coaches got from SEC Commissioner Mike Slive.

"I do think there was a bit of a knee jerk reaction in our league during the spring meetings because if not for the win by Mississippi State in the SEC Tournament we would have had only two teams in the SEC Tournament. If you look at it traditionally as long as I've been here the SEC has five or six teams in each year. The bottom line was last year that our league didn't perform well outside the league. I think (this year) our league has performed better. This is an opportunity for us against a team like Xavier that has had an enormous amount of success and is a great program. I like playing the game, but a lot of the scheduling part of it is of the league and I don't know if I agree with that being the case."

As for the Xavier team, Florida is facing a squad that is 16-7 on the year but just 4-7 away from home. Xavier is coming off its worst game of the season in a 90-65 loss at Dayton on Saturday and has not played since. The only common opponent shared by the two teams is LSU. The Gators beat the Tigers 72-58 while Xavier posted a more impressive 89-65 win.

Xavier is led by sophomore Jordan Crawford (19.7/4.8), point guard Terrell Holloway (11.1, 4 assists) and 6-9, 265 pound center Jason Love (11/8.4). They also have depth up front with Jamel McLean (8/6.7) and seven foot back up center Kenny Frease (5.8/4.8). Xavier shots 39 percent from three point range and 47 percent overall. Donovan looks at the match up.

"They're a strong, physical team up front. I think the one thing that stands out right away with them is the way they shoot the ball from the three point line. And it's not just Crawford; it's a lot of different guys. (Terrell) Holloway is a terrific shooter (and Dante') Jackson is a terrific shooter. So they have terrific perimeter shooting. Then Love up front with (Jamel) McLean and (Kenny) Frease are big strong physical guys. They have a good combination of guys they can throw the ball into, and they're a terrific transition team where they'll take a lot of threes on the break."

While the Gator coach has his eyes on all the Musketeers, there's no doubt that Crawford is the player the Gators have to worry about the most.

"He's terrific. He got a lot of important minutes when he was at Indiana and really was having a pretty good freshman year before he transferred. He's really talented and long. (He's) a terrific shooter and just a great offensive player. (He's a) guy who will clearly be playing in the NBA."


Both teams needs this win for their NCAA resume and should be at 100 percent for the contest. Florida has four home games remaining and none can be considered a gimme. After Xavier the Gators will host Auburn on Thursday, travel to Ole Miss Saturday and hustle back for a Tuesday date with Tennessee. The next four games will go a long way towards determining whether Florida returns to the Big Dance or settles for a third straight NIT appearance.


Chandler Parsons will be gunning for his third straight double-double after reaching those levels against Mississippi State (18/12) and South Carolina (13/11). He had just two double-doubles in the first 22 games.

Dan Werner was struggling through the Gators' first 16 games (6.6/4.6), but coming off the bench has been a disaster for Florida's lone senior. In his six games off the bench Werner (1.8/3.1) has looked lost and tentative. Getting him back to his productivity of last year (8.9/4.9) would be a big boost for the Gators.

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