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.
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
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
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.