Bama Basketball Breakdown: #3 Florida

Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama returns the favor to the Gators by heading to Gainesville for a rematch

The last time these two teams met, which was only two weeks ago, the third ranked Florida Gators (20-2, 9-0) were given all they could handle against an undermanned, yet determined, Alabama team. Well since that last matchup, these two teams have moved in totally opposite directions. Florida has gotten even better and, in the process, has continued to roll over SEC opponents. Meanwhile, Alabama followed a quick high with a win over LSU with a 3 game losing streak. The Gators are really starting to look like legitimate National Championship contenders, and it seems like there are only a few opponents left on the schedule who can possibly beat them. As much as the Gump in me would like to believe that one of those opponents could be our beloved Crimson Tide, the realist in me laughs at that notion.

Since the Tide has already played the Gators this season, I will have a little bit of a different format for this article. Let's first review the roster breakdown with some updated stats:

The Gators are led at the point by Senior G Scottie Wilbekin (12.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 3.6 APG 1.8 SPG), who is the best point guard in the league outside of Trevor Releford. Wilbekin was one of those guys who missed a big chunk of the year early in the season, and he was greatly missed. I know it's a bit of a cliche, but his ability to lead on both sides of the court really makes everyone around him better. Wilbekin is one of the few guys in the game who logs over 30 MPG and has a 2-to-1 assist to turnover ratio. He, like everyone on the team, is very sound defensively. Offensively he is an efficient, all-around scorer (40.0% FG%, 40.8% 3P%), though he could use some work on his free throws (66.7%). Sophomore G Michael Frazier (11.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.1 SPG) is your prototypical shooting guard. He doesn't dish the ball out much, but when you shoot 48.1% from the field and 53.8% from three, you don't need to look for assists. He also shoots 86.2% from the free throw line. Freshman G Kasey Hill (6.8 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.4 SPG) is a raw product with a lot of potential for the Gators. The former 5 star recruit has struggled a bit shooting just 38.4% from the field, 16.7% from three, and 69.0% from the free throw line, but his athleticism and fluidity on the court can not be denied. Hill also has a 2-to-1 assist to turnover ratio. 6'6 Junior G Jacob Kurtz (2.2 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 0.4 SPG) gets about 12 MPG, and is utilized as someone who can give one of the first three guards a break and provide some good length. Billy Donovan's son, Billy Donovan Jr., also plays, though he doesn't get significant minutes.

Wilbekin (12.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.5 SPG) has continued his steady play. His shooting percentages have dropped slightly, but he has gotten better from the foul line. His assist-to-turnover ratio is still ridiculous.

Frazier (12.6 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 SPG) has seen his shooting numbers come down a little bit, but he has actually taken on a bigger role offensively.

Hill (6.2 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.2 SPG) seems to be playing at the same level.

Kurtz (2.1 PPG, 1.9 RPG) still gets some time as well.

In the frontcourt, a pair of senior forwards have really dominated for Florida. Senior F Casey Prather (17.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 2.1 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.5 BPG) has had a breakout year for the Gators. Prather is shooting 63.6% from the field, including 33.3% from three, which isn't too shabby for 6'6 inside out wing player. He has a great knack for creating open looks inside of the arc, and he uses his length on the boards very effectively. 6'9 Senior F Patric Young (10.9 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.1 SPG, 1.0 BPG) is one of those guys who feels like he's been around for six seasons. Young has been just as dominant in the post as ever, as he is one of the premier defensive players in the country. He has a ridiculous Defensive Rating of 89.5. He shoots 54.0% from the field, pretty much all around the rim, but he still hasn't mastered the art of free throws (55.1%). He will more than likely tear up our post players on the boards and on the defensive end. Sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith (10.8 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.4 SPG, 0.4 BPG) isn't the defensive presence that Young is, but he is even better on the glass. Offensively, he brings more of a shooting threat than Young. Even though he shoots 40.9%, he takes more shots away from the basket, including a 37.3% clip from three. He also is a legitimate threat to dish off the assist to an open look, something most guys that are 6'8 can't do well. Defensive specialist Senior F Will Yeguete (5.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.1 SPG) uses his tremendous length to lock down opposing players. Yeguete has a Defensive Rating of 90.5, which is fantastic for a college wing player. Finally, Sophomore F DeVon Walker (3.2 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 0.5 BPG) is a good role player off the bench, who like everyone else, plays good, sound defense.

Prather (15.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.6 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG) has cooled off a bit, but he is still a very dangerous wing player and a contender for SEC POY.

Young (10.7 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.9 SPG, 1.0 BPG) continues to be a force inside.

Finney-Smith (10.0 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.4 BPG) keeps giving the Gators great minutes.

Yeguete (5.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 SPG) has picked it up on the glass.

Walker (2.7 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 0.5 BPG) has seen a significant decrease in his role on the team.

The biggest difference this time against Florida is the addition of the former McDonald's All-American and 5 star recruit, Freshman F Chris Walker. Walker had 4 points to go along with a pair of rebounds and a pair of blocks in just 7 minutes of play against Missouri in his debut on Tuesday. He is a very good young player. He has missed most of the season due to ineligibility issues, but he is golden for the rest of the season.

What To Watch For

1. Defense. Florida and Alabama have two of the best defenses in the SEC. This should come as no surprise, as Donovan has always won with defense, and Anthony Grant comes from the Donovan coaching tree. Florida's defense is fantastic. Despite playing a very tough schedule thus far, they are 10th in the country allowing just 59.7 PPG. So don't expect a lot of fireworks.

2. Student vs Master. As I stated, Anthony Grant is cut from the cloth of Billy Donovan. However, did you know that Grant is 0-6 against Donovan since taking over at Alabama? Half of those games weren't even close. Donovan clearly has a lot more on Grant than Grant does on Donovan.

3. Player Discipline. In a sport that has been rampantly plagued by foul calls and free throws, the Gators are the outlier. Florida is 330th in the country in player fouls, meaning only 11 other teams foul less than Florida does.

All three of these points still hold true. Florida remains one of the stingiest, most disciplined teams in the country, and unless there was a one-on-one street game between Anthony Grant and Billy Donovan that I haven't heard of, the student has yet to best his master once.

Three Keys to Victory

1. Generate Some Sort of Inside Presence. Florida is extremely stingy on defense, and Alabama isn't very good on offense. But the Gators aren't incredible at grabbing rebounds, and they actually have a pretty bad block rate. So, if someone like Nick Jacobs can get something going on the inside, Alabama might have a chance in this one.

2. Transition Baskets. Florida's defense is really good because they will absolutely shut you down in the halfcourt. What Alabama is going to have to do is create some fastbreak opportunities. Fortunately, Alabama has two guys in Trevor Releford and Retin Obasohan that can create a fastbreak in a blink of an eye. Alabama needs to get out ahead and run with it. A lot of times Alabama plays deliberately slow, but I just don't see that being successful against the Gators.

3. Hope for an Outlier from the Mean. This is basically my way of saying pray for a miracle. Show up, tune in, and hope that either Florida plays much worse than they usually do, or that Alabama plays a lot better than they usually do. There's really no other way that winning is a possibility.

Alabama actually did a really good job of generating a presence on the inside in all three phases of the game last time, and the team was able to hang tough. The Tide will definitely need to repeat that performance to have any chance on the road against the Gators. Key #2 will be even more important in this one now that the Gators have added another athletic shot blocker with great range in Chris Walker. And Key #3 holds true even more so considering the current trajectory of both teams.

Alabama is headed on the road to play the Florida Gators and Billy Donovan. We have all seen this before, haven't we? Forgive me if I am not super optimistic, but hey, Alabama played much better (defensively at least) against Arkansas than I thought they would. I really wish the Tide could pull this one off. I'd like to send Trevor Releford out with at least one huge win. The game is set for 11:00 am CST on ESPN.

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