We have battled injury and inconsistent play this past month. Which made it difficult to watch because this team we have this particular season is special. Today’s game is a huge step for us because we have everyone back at relative full strength and we need good team play at Lexington to build momentum for SEC Tournament play.
Especially on defense.
If we can do one thing especially well today I would really like to see us play aggressive-in your face-on the floor for loose balls-tenacious-full court-masterful TEAM D. That’s what is gonna get us through the SEC Tourney and deep into March Madness….and it must start today. Full disclosure: I will be at the game today so I really really want to see us play good D. We haven’t shot particularly well of late, so if this trend continues our defense will be paramount.
It was good to see the seniors go out with a great game versus Vandy. It will be tainted with a poor showing today. Coach Donovan knows this game is very important to the team mindset, particularly in light of UK’s struggles on Thursday against Georgia. It would be easy for the Gators to take this game lightly. It is Senior Day for the Wildcats even though thia brand of Wildcat basketball doesn’t create many seniors. The atmosphere at Rupp Arena will definitely be amped. A road win here will be the best way to finish our regular season and break an assumption that we can’t win big games on the road.
I’m amped and I’m walking into the Wildcat’s den. It’s time to play!
Kenny Boyton, Erik Murphy and Mike Rosario suit up for the last time in a Gator uniform at home. Most of us thought Boynton would have been gone two seasons ago. Heck, most of thought Erik Murphy was done after breaking into a car after his Sophomore year. Come to think of it…after last season who’d of thought Mike Rosario would even be seeing the court right now.
This may not have been the greatest Gator season ever, but it sure came pretty close because of this group. They have become the face of unselfish play and hard-nose defense. True they have had their moments of lackluster play, but they each bought into what Billy Donovan was selling and it has generated 23 Victories so far this season. Collectively tonight would be their 100th Victory if they beat the Commodores, two SEC Championships, four NCAA tourney berths to go with two straight trips to the Elite Eight….and 3,400 points between them.
More than likely we will take a pretty big hit this year when they and Patric Young leave for the NBA or other ventures. We do have them right now and it has been a super season to watch college basketball. I don’t think anyone believes that we can win the NCAA Championship and to talk of it now is ridiculous, but Billy is working them hard to be the best prepared come tournament time. We’ve got our team finally healthy at the right time and these next two games will be critical to the momentum development before the tournaments begin. You can almost taste the anticipation.
Vandy will look to spoil the night tonight and they have won three straight and hit 10+ three-pointers in those games. Our defense needs to ratchet up a new level. We’ve been a bit lazy on the floor…especially against a ‘Bama team that was close to knocking us down (Thank you Casey Prather!). It should be an exciting finish to the season. Are you ready for it Gator Nation?
Game time is 8pm and you can stream the game on ESPN3 if you aren’t in the South or don’t have the SEC Network.
Big plug for the Lady Gator Lax squad. They are now 8-0 after pummeling Loyola last night. Second-ranked and devastating. Woo Hoo!
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.
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.
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.
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.