The Florida Gators, ranked No. 15 by AP (No. 10 by ESPN/Coaches) have not played since they demolished Tennessee 95-57 last Saturday in Gainesville. Earlier they edged surprising South Carolina 65-62 in Columbia, and are 2-0 in conference play. The Gators are on a six-game winning streak since losing back-to-back games at Louisville (73-65) and at home to Maryland (69-65). Earlier, they had a good early victory over Arizona (78-77) in the Hall of Fame Game at Springfield, Mass., and they have also won home games over Montana State (112-73), Florida A&M (102-78), Central Florida (56-39), Stetson (74-61), West Virginia (70-57), Northeastern (101-84), Eastern Kentucky (109-63), and Florida State (87-73).
The Gators have only one senior, 6-9 center Bonell Colas (6.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game). He is their most experienced player and gets a lot of help from 6-8, 230-pound freshman Chris Richard (4.5 ppg and 4.1 rebounds). Richard had 11 points against Tennessee and six in the Arizona game, and will play a lot of minutes before he completes his eligibility.
All four of the other starters are very talented. The most consistent is a former McDonald's All-American, 6-9 junior David Lee. Now a 240-pounder, Lee is scoring 15.7 ppg, making 64% of his shots from the field, and grabbing 7.6 rebounds. He takes all of his shots close to the baskets and was the most recent SEC Player of the Week. He will probably play opposite Freije or Przybyszewski, whichever is in the game.
The most dangerous outside shooter is 6-1 sophomore Anthony Roberson (right, 15.6 ppg), who is making 44.7% of his three point shots. Although Roberson is a gunner, and clearly more comfortable at shooting guard, he is the point guard this year and has a fairly good assist-to-turnover ratio (3.8 / 2.2).
The other two starters are both excellent passers and help out Roberson greatly in the playmaking area. 6-6 sophomore Matt Walsh (a teammate of Ted Skuchas in high school) scores 14.2 ppg and dishes out 3.5 assists. His 3-point shooting (32.4%) hasn't been as good as it was last year, but he drives to the basket a lot, gets fouled often, and makes 90% of his free throws. Walsh also snares 5.4 rebounds per game.
6-9 sophomore Christian Drejer was slowed greatly by injuries last year, but has emerged this year as a scorer (11.6 ppg) and rebounder (5.6 per game), and often operates as a point forward (4.0 assists per game, tops on the team). He is also making 35.9% of his threes, and is an extremely valuable all-around player.
Because of Coach Billy Donovan's success as a recruiter, the Gators have a deep but young bench. Adrian Moss, a 6-9 junior, plays about 19 minutes per game, scores 6.3 points and gathers in an average of 4.5 rebounds, and can spell Lee or Colas. 6-10 freshman Mohamed Abukar (4.6 ppg), who was headed for Georgia before the Harrick scandal broke, does a lot of shooting from outside despite his height. 6-3 freshman Ryan Appleby (1.2 ppg and about two assists) is a reserve point guard. 6-2 freshman Lee Humphrey, from Maryville, Tenn. (3.5 ppg), is a dangerous outside shooter. 6-3 sophomore Rasheed Al-Kaleem (2.9 ppg) has played about nine minutes a game.
Florida is a very good shooting team, and has good height, but seems to be a bit erratic. Many of the players are comparatively inexperienced, and although there is no doubt about their ability, both Roberson and Walsh sometimes get out of control. Drejer and Lee are the steadying influences, and Colas at center is the weakest of the starters. The Commodores can match Jason Holwerda and Scott Hundley or Corey Smith against Walsh and Drejer, but Roberson would be a handful for Mario Moore. If Holwerda guards Roberson, either Walsh or Drejer may get loose.
In order to win, Vanderbilt must return to the shooting and rebounding form that it displayed in earlier games, e.g. Michigan and TCU. The familiar surroundings of Memorial Gymnasium, greater experience, and a return to form by Freije could very well produce a victory, because the Gators aren't likely to have another shooting night such as they had against Tennessee. The prediction is for a very close game with Vanderbilt squeaking out a one- to four-point win.
Photos by Phil Sandlin, Associated Press.