Monthly Archives: February 2013

Armageddon!!

English: Logo of the Southeastern Conference (...

English: Logo of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another loss on the road this week, Gator Nation.

Everything is falling apart. Locusts are coming. The pale rider is galloping near. Soon hellfire will be raining from the sky. Ok, not so much. Yes, we blew a 13-point lead at Mizzou and that coupled with the loss at Arkansas and at Arizona now has the nation convinced that we can’t win big games on the road. Does anyone remember a 2007 Gator National Championship team that lost 3 straight games right before the SEC tournament?

How we respond to games like this is the biggest thing this Gator team can learn right now. No team in the nation is going undefeated and upsets are rampant. It’s all about the preparation and learning to play your best as a team. Finding where you are weak, addressing the concerns and showing the distinct ability to play hard at all times. Wallowing in a loss isn’t this team’s style.

Tonight’s game against Arkansas should fuel the fire for the Gators. Last time we played them at Arkansas and they came lights out from 3-point range and we never caught up. We have them at home and I think this game will play out just a wee bit different. From a season standpoint we are definitely at a critical point in the last part of the regular season. After this we have Tennessee on the road, a home game against Alabama and Vandy with a final regular season game at Kentucky. To maintain control of the SEC we have to win them all, but we need to start it tonight with a win and then move on to the next game.

At Missouri we completely got out of our game plan. No one was attacking the basket. We were content to launch threes at every place on the court. We basically handed the game back to Missouri at the end. Heck, we still should’ve won. Time to get back to the basics. Wilbiken needs to run the point, penetrate and open up shots for everyone. We need Patric Young to dominate the boards…COMPLETELY. Our defense needs to ramp back up.

Arkansas has won their last two games by 2 points each at home. This will prove to be a much tougher contest than those. The Gators will have to show that they can get their mojo back on defense. That has been the deciding factor all season. It has to show up tonight regardless of whether we are raining threes or not.

I hope you’re tuning in or putting it on the DVR. We are 12-0 at home and its time to make it 13.

Go Gators!

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Mizzou in Waiting

Mizzou Arena from the North facade.

Mizzou Arena from the North facade. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A great test tonight, Gator Nation.

On the road again at Missouri which promises to be more exciting than our game at Auburn. Missouri has been the tale of two teams. On the road they have been completely demolished (including an 83-52 shellacking at Gainesville). At home it is quite a different story. They are 14-0 at Mizzou Arena and completely dominated Ole Miss, Miss State, Alabama and Vandy. “What?!?” I hear you say. “So have we?!?” Of course, we have, but that is not the point. The point is that we are facing a much different team than we did a month ago at home. One that could provide a much needed test for our Gator basketball team.

Last time we played they had just lost Laurence Bowers who was the heart and soul of their team. He’s back this time around and they have an explosive offense to go with it. They have six players averaging double figures. They are also #2 in the nation of rebounding. It is also unlikely that their point guard, Paul Pressey, will have the same 10 turnovers he did last time….though I’m still counting on Scottie Wilbiken to shut him down.  It’s going to be a closer game and it’s going to be good. We need a battle on the road to test our mettle and to really see if the Gators learned something from that Arkansas game. Mizzou is going to come out with guns a blazin’ and they are going to try and amp up the crowd with some high intensity offense. It will be good to see how the Gator defense can react to an initial blitz and if they can completely shut them down again.

I don’t really like close games any more than the next Gator fanatic, but the truth is leading up to the SEC and NCAA tournament, we need some on the court tests away from home. It might cause misfirings of some pacemakers, but when it is all said and done, I believe this Gator team will prevail. They’ve come a very long way this year and have matured quite well as the season rolled along.

Now, it must be said, that being without Yeugete tonight will be difficult. Missouri brings Alex Oriakhi in with almost 9 rebounds a game to go with his 6’9″, 260lb frame. Will Yuegete is a great equalizer there. We’ve seen Casey Prather and Michael Frazier II step up in recent games. Tonight will be a much interesting assignment for both. They do not have to have monster nights, but if Prather can battle down low and grab some more rebounds and MFII can nail 2 or 3 three-point shots, then they will add a consistency to an already steadily performing team. It’s not about being all-stars…it’s all about team contribution and working together. This has been one of the best seasons ever to watch because this Gator team has serious chemistry and really likes going out and lacing them up and getting on the court. If someone is down, another steps up. It is great to watch. Who would have ever thought we would have Kenny Boynton around 13 points per game instead of 16…and still clobbering teams. The fact is he doesn’t have to do it alone anymore. His assists per game are up and he is still a legitimate threat from the outside. Just having him on the floor puts enormous pressure on the opposing team. An opponent, quite frankly, has to account for every Gator on the floor including those off the bench. Plain and simple.

It’s a late game tonight, but well worth staying up and watching….or at least put it on the DVR and watch it tomorrow. This has been an exciting season and one you will want to see through to the end.

Go Gators!

Auburn Game Takeaways

Primary logo for all UF athletics since the ea...

Primary logo for all UF athletics since the early 1990s (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A relatively efficient win for us, Gator Nation.

The biggest takeaway from the game this weekend at Auburn was our efficiency on offense—our ball movement was exceptional—and the hitting open jump shots on the road. The road wins are by far the most important thing to us right now because it is the best we can do to prepare for the SEC and NCAA tournament. The more hostile the environment, the better it is for the team in preparing for the tourney.

We were so efficient the other night that Patric Young didn’t really even need to contribute in the rebounding department. Auburn boxed him in all night and that gave everyone on the perimeter open 3’s to shoot with 25 assists along the way. Hitting over 50% of our 3’s was huge. Having Casey Prather and Michael Frazier II step up and have solid games is also helping negate the loss of Will Yuegete.

All of that said….we have an interesting road on the way to the SEC tournament.

We are at Missouri this week and then have Arkansas visit in a contest, I’m sure is circled on the calendar by this group of Gators. Not to mention games at Tennessee, and at home against ‘Bama and Vandy. The regular season would have culminated with a game at Kentucky, but that doesn’t look as impressive now that they are down their most dominant inside player. None the less, this is crunch time of these Gators. They need to treat these games seriously as preparation for tournament time. We only go 7 deep right now without Yuegete and we aren’t the tallest. We have limitations. There just needs to be a continual focus on proper execution.

Exciting times. I hope you’re catching this season. It’s a good one to be watching.

Go Gators!

What You Get Without Yuegete—Get it?!

English: NASA StarChild image of Stephen Hawking.

English: NASA StarChild image of Stephen Hawking. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’re going to miss Will Yuegete big time, Gator Nation.

The first half of the schedule was cake compared to what the second half is going to see. We play UK twice, we’re at Vandy and Mizzou, we have ‘Bama at home and probably a nasty contest at Tennessee. While I expect wins in all these contests, the road will not be by a margin of 25 points….but I will whole-heartedly accept it if that comes to pass.

The second half of the regular season is made even more difficult without Will Yuegete playing in the middle of our press and getting key rebounds underneath. While he is only 6’7″ and is playing the role of a big man, his ability to make decisions while the press is in play that have made our defense as strong as it is. Now playing pressure defense isn’t rocket science, but Yuegete is the Stephen Hawking of full court pressure. Quickly reacting to the ball while it is coming up the court takes presence and quick decision making ability—both of which Yuegete possesses. Yes–him being out is going to hurt a bit.

Billy Donovan is going to have to find a rotation that works for us in the interim…and quickly adjusts once Yuegete comes back during tournament time. That is no easy task and made more difficult by the schedule. Casey Prather adds more scoring and great athleticism, but does not make up the rebounds. I like what Michael Frazier II brings to the court in terms of scoring, defense and rebounding…but at 6’4″ we become a VERY small team.

I would never had said it 3 years ago when Yuegete first arrived, but he is a central figure of our team chemistry. Scottie Wilbiken is going to have to play the best point defense of his life the next 8 games and the team is going to have get back in the habit of forcing opponents to shoot 27% from three-point land. Tonights game against UK will be a great showcase of how this team is adapting. Don’t miss it.

Go Gators!

The Wildebeest and Beyond

Anyone watching Gator basketball?

I ask that because this season is shaping up to be some of the finest roundball we’ve ever played as a Gator team. I went back and watched highlights from the 2006-2007 teams and have to admit that they were a level-above most teams they played. The two National Championships speak for themselves.

Our team this year is much smaller and about as thin as those teams Championship teams were.  We had a great initial run in the SEC schedule winning 10 in a row, but lost last week at Arkansas.  Truth be told, Billy has never had great success at Arkansas on their home floor.  The loss, while very unexpected for this team, was not surprising overall.  We weren’t going to continue the harassing defense every game and the hot shooting from 3-point land.  We were due for a lull.  As it turns out the last three games have been a bit of a lull overall.

Our 3-point defense has been incredible all season holding opponents to 27 percent shooting…the last three games have seen opponents shoot 41 percent including the Razorbacks 8 of 18 from three point range.  That’s not how we’ve been winning games and it appears that Billy has been working the team extra hard the last few days at practice in preparation for the Kentucky Wildcats.  Both Sunday and Monday’s practices were defense-centric.  The other reason is that we will be without Will Yuegete for the remainder of the regular season.  That’s absolutely gonna hurt when we full court press moving forward because Yuegete is the centerpiece of the press and how the ball moves is dependent on how Yueget reacts.  We’ve had enormous success with our press and let’s not forget his near 7 rebounds a game.  Yep—this is going to come back to bite us.  Here’s hoping we get him back near the end of the regular season.  Yuegete’s arthrocopic surgery went well (according to his tweet) and now it is on to the physical therapy with the athletic trainers who are in the top tier of their business.

I digress.

Our defense is key to our success and that all starts with Scottie Wilbiken out front.  We have not been the same team when “The Wildebeest” is starting and playing well.  It is not strange that all three of our losses happened when we did not have the services of Wilbiken or we had poor play by him.  He’s been the bedrock of the defense and has shut down some of the best scorers in the league.  We’re getting ready to go against Kentucky at home.  If we are to contend with their talent and athleticism, we will need The Wildebeest at his most intense best.  Further we will need significant contributions from Casey Prather and Michael Frazier II.  Frazier has proven reliable at three point range and an adept rebounder.  We need Prather ball-hawking on defense.  It also wouldn’t hurt to have Patric Young dominate the middle against UK’s 6-10 and 7 foot post players (Nerlens Noel and Willie Cauley-Stein).  Our inside shots will not come easy and if our 3-pointers aren’t falling our main recourse is defense….it’s has to be seriously intense.

The game tomorrow night is on ESPN at 7pm EST and 4pm PST.  If you’re not watching the Gators play this season, it might just be time to start tuning in to their games.  We are playing very well as a team.  We have some more work to do, but this team has bought into what Billy is selling.  Maybe you should buy some too.  If your local Gator Club is hosting a viewing part, that would be a great time to join them since Victory, especially over Kentucky basketball, is best served with Gators!  ‘Nuff said.

Go Gators!

Gator's Home Court

Gator’s Home Court (Photo credit: jimmywayne)