When college basketball talk started in early October, Florida’s trip to McKale Center was circled on more than a few calendars, and for good reason. The game was pegged as the Wildcats’ premiere non-conference game of the season, with the Gators returning to Tucson for the finale in a home-and-home series that started a year ago.
The day has finally arrived and the circumstances couldn’t be any better for either team. Arizona (7-0) and Florida (7-0) are both entering the game without suffering a loss.
Both teams have been tested, especially Florida, who has already beaten a ranked foe this season, topping Wisconsin 74-56 early on. The Gators have also beaten Marquette quite handily, coming away with a 82-49 victory.
One of the reasons for Florida’s success is Head Coach Billy Donovan. The Gator coach has compiled a 428-178 career record over the past nineteen years at Marshall and Florida. He has been with the Gators since 1996 and led Florida to back-to-back NCAA Championships in 2006 and 2007.
On the court, senior guard Kenny Boynton leads the Gators. At 6-foot-2, 190-pounds, he leads the team in scoring, but also helps run the offense for the team at times. Boynton has eighteen assists on the season to go along with five steals per game. As a senior, it will fall on his hands to control the offense in what should be a ruckus McKale Center.
Lining up next to Boynton will be Rutgers-transfer Mike Rosario. Known as a deadly shooter, the senior has fallen off the mark so far this season, hitting just .269 from beyond the arc. However, he is the team’s best free throw shooter, missing only two this season. Even with his decline in accuracy, Rosario is still scoring 11.4 points per game, though his assist-to-turnover ratio is 1:1.
Starting at the small forward position for the Gators will be Will Yeguete. As the only starter who isn’t scoring double figures consistently, the junior grabs 7.4 rebounds per game, which is good enough for second on the team. Yeguete also leads the team in steals with nine so far this year.
Perhaps the most important piece of Florida’s puzzle of success is senior forward Erik Murphy. The 6-foot-10, 238-pounder is a production machine, grabbing nearly five rebounds and scoring twelve points per game. While he may not start, Murphy has found plenty of success this season on the offensive end of the court and will be a tough matchup for Wildcat defenders.
What may be odd is that even with Murphy’s success, he still isn’t the best big man on the floor. Patric Young will be starting at center for the Gators and is a player that the Wildcats won’t be taking lightly. Young is averaging 10.3 points, 7.9 rebounds, and has sixteen blocks this season, but that isn’t the story for him coming into the game. Last season, the junior (then sophomore) torched Arizona for 25 points on 12-15 shooting.
He also grabbed ten rebounds and was the main reason that the Gators came away with the victory. The Wildcats added some size to the roster since then and will be looking to take away any easy opportunities for Young.
Scottie Wilbekin will likely get the start at the point and the junior has been the most productive point guard on the team so far, dishing out 22 assists in just five games. Wilbekin served a short suspension earlier this season after violating team rules, but has bounced back since then to become a dependable point guard.
Michael Frazier II will come off the bench for Florida. The 6-foot-4 freshman has already logged quality minutes for the Gators this season and could see extended minutes against Arizona depending on the pace of the game and how well the starters’ legs hold up. His strength lies in his shooting ability, as he is hitting treys at with 40-percent accuracy.
Both teams matchup well with each other, though each team has some advantages as well. Florida has size and experience on its side. Arizona has a home-court edge and a little more depth that the Gators. It is nothing that immediately jumps out and gives either team the upper hand, which is why a sold out McKale Center should be in for a game that comes down to the wire.