Billy Donovan's high power, high octane, high energy Florida Gators battle Stanford Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden in the first Preseason NIT semifinal. The Gators started the season ranked anywhere between second and eighth in most preseason publications, and currently sit at #7 in both the media and coaches polls. Coach Billy Donovan told Blue Ribbon Magazine before the season, "This team reminds me a lot of the 2000 team (NCAA Finalist). I don't know if we're as talented as that team was. But we are just as deep." The Gators depth has been depleted somewhat, due to some preseason injuries, but they are still going to pressure full court and look for quick transition baskets.
F - #15 - Matt Bonner -
6'10" - 240 - Sr
A preseason All American who can score anywhere on the floor. Will take his man off the dribble, shoot the trey or give you a hook shot from down low.
F - #44 - Matt Walsh -
6'6" - 205 - Fr
Young man is averaging 21.7 ppg after his first 3 college games. Instant offense. Donovan type kid. Can shoot and goes all out. Will be tough to keep out of the lineup when Nelson and Drejer return.
G - #1 - Anthony Roberson -
6'1" - 180 - Fr
Another tough Saginaw, MI kid. Like DeRonnie Pitts and his brother Terrence (Fresno State) this kid competes. Like Walsh this frosh has taken Gator Basketball by storm averaging 19.7 ppg. Great first step. The veteran Barnes vs. the rookie will be a great match up.
G - #12 - Justin Hamilton -
6'3" - 225 - Sr
Has been starting at the point (you don't see many 6-3 225lb point guards). Unselfish, will do what is needed to win the game. A great defender. Will be interesting to see if he defends Barnes, Lottich or Childress. Really need Lottich to be hot so Barnes can work on Roberson.
G - #10 - Brett Nelson -
6'4" - 205 - Sr
Pre-season All American. Is recovering from a stress fracture and is expected to play about 15 minutes. Can play either gaued position. A Casey Jacobsen type player who teams have to pay attention to. Will Donovan rest him looking toward a possible match-up with Kansas?
F - #4 - Adrian Moss -
6'9" - 238 - Fr
21-year-old redshirt freshmen. Tough, will do the dirty work underneath.
G - #22 - Rashid Al-Kaleem
- 6'3" - 192 - Fr
Another talented frosh who is averaging 21 minutes a game. Good in transition and hitting the boards.
C - #2 - Mario Boggan -
6'7" - 300 - Fr
A wide body to say the least. A nice inside game and good rebounder. Still prone to freshman mistakes.
Turnovers: While committing 15, Florida forces 21 turnovers per game
Shooting: Opponents are shooting 35% from the field and 27% from behind the line
FT Shooting: Florida shoots just 61% from the line
Rebounds: Florida out-rebounds its opponents 40 to 31
Steals: Florida averages 12 steals per game while its opponents average 7
Blocks: Florida averages 7 blocked shots a game
On paper this game looks like a tough one for Stanford to win. Games aren't played on paper of course. The Gators are younger than Stanford. How will the bright lights of New York City affect them? Donovan has been worried that his players have looked tired. Can the Florida freshmen keep it up? Will Florida be overlooking Stanford?
The Florida team reminds me a lot of Kansas last year. Substitute Bonner and Lee for Collison and Gooden. Roberson for Miles, Hamilton for Boschee and Nelson for Hinrich. That bodes poorly, given the Kansas finale to last season...
Stanford has to handle pressure and not turn the ball over. Card have to come out relaxed and not afraid. Need to keep playing. Can't lose the game in the first five minutes (see Kansas last March). Need to let Josh and Julius loose, though they need to be under control.
This will be a game of match ups. Do we go big or small? I think the key will be to have our best ball handlers on the floor and go with whatever wing is hottest from outside. Grunfeld, Haas and Robinson will need to contribute off the bench. Stanford has been in 3 tight games. The young Florida team has been blowing people away. We need the wings to be hot.
Stanford needs to take care of the ball, take smart shots and make Florida work for their points. Keep the game close the first half and put doubt into the young Gators.