Playing without their top frontcourt reserve, 6-8 senior forward Otis George, who is out 3-5 weeks with an injured right foot, the undermanned Cardinals present Rick Pitino with a challenge unlike any he's faced before as a coach.
"In 25 years of coaching I've never had zero substitutes in the frountcourt," Pitino said.
Florida, led by 6-9 center David Lee, 6-6 forward Matt Walsh and 6-1 point guard Anthony Roberson, figures to present major problems up front with several talented options available to Donovan, including 6-8 Chris Richard and 6-9 Adrian Moss.
"His second unit is just as good as his starters," Pitino said of Donovan's team. "They have a very deep basketball team."
"They're really a good team," Pitino continued of Gators, whose only loss of the season came last weekend against Miami. "This is the best team he's had since they went to the Final Four in Billy's second season."
To counter the Gators size and depth advantages, not to mention a strong home court advantage, Pitino said his team with have to play smart, and perhaps, get a little lucky to come out of Gainesville victorious.
"We have to play very intelligent and very hard," Pitino said. "The problem is we're going into a very hostile environment against a team that is very deep inside."
All-America junior forward Francisco Garcia, who gave the Gators fits in the Cardinals win last season in Louisville, expects Florida to come after the Cardinals with constant pressure defense this afternoon. Garcia will likely see action at the power forward postion, especially on the offensive end of the court.
"They're front line is big and they will press us the whole game," Garcia said. "So we've got to be prepared for coming for us."
Despite a roster, especially up front, depleted by injuries, Pitino isn't about to make excuses and believes he still has enough talent not only to be competitive but to win.
"We've been very unlucky with injuries the past two years but that's part of the game," Pitino said. "But we can't make excuses because our team still has the ability and talent to win."
The x-factor today could be Florida freshman forward Corey Brewer. Unable to slow down Garcia in last year's matchup, Brewer, a former McDonald's All-American, has quickly developed into the Gators top defender. Athletic and possessing long arms, Brewer likely will be given the assignment of trying to slow down U of L's leading scorer.
"Corey Brewer is as good a freshman [in the nation]," Pitino said. "He disrupts everything defensively. He's terrific."
Even with little depth or size, don't expect U of L to attempt to compensate with gimmick defenses like a zone against the sharp-shooting Gators.
"They attack zones very well," Pitino said. "They shoot 62-percent when teams zone them, so we'll have to go small and play them man-to-man. That's not a pretty picture."
The game will be televised line on ESPN with tip-off scheduled for 12 noon.