The Florida Gators men’s basketball team tips off the 2012-2013 season in a few hours against the Georgetown Hoyas on the deck of the USS Bataan.
The 10th ranked Gators, playing in the 2012 Navy-Marine Corps Classic at Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Florida, face a Hoyas team that made an NCAA tournament appearance last year but has to rebuild after losing their three top players from a season ago.
The young Hoyas, led by head coach John Thompson III, will turn to forward Otto Porter, jr., known as Otto-Matic for his ability to do it all. Porter, a 6’8″ 205 pound sophomore is a pre-season All Big East player and will be counted on to provide scoring, rebounding, and leadership.
Junior Markel Starks takes over at the point guard slot. While new to the point for the Hoyas he is experienced as he started 25 games last season. Behind thsse two is a lot of youth with five freshman and no seniors.
The Hoyas biggest asset, outside of Otto, is their length with eight players 6’8″ or taller, but even with good size they’ll still be hard pressed to overcome the experience and pure shooting ability that Florida presents.
The Gators counter with 6’9″ 249 lb Patric Young in the post and 6’10″ power forward Erik Murphy. Young, a former McDonald’s All-American, is a beast underneath the basket and is expected to have a breakout season this year after his first two somewhat underachieving seasons. Georgetown will need all the length they can get to combat Young’s rebounding and low-post scoring skills.
Murphy is an amazing 3 pt shooter for a big man and is a good outlet in the pick and pop. Additionally, he has bulked up this season to 238 lbs and is expected to contribute more on the boards this season.
The Gators will be without 1st year starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin in this one as he was suspended indefinitely by Billy Donovan for undisclosed reasons.
“He made some choices, did some things that, I’m not going to have him a part of,” said Donovan.
He went on to explain that it was not related to NCAA violations or anything criminal.
In his absence, Donovan will turn to shooting guard Kenny Boynton to man the point and will likely slide Mike Rosario into Boynton’s spot and start Will Yeguette at the small forward spot. Freshman Michael Frazier, who led the team in scoring in an exhibition game last week, should see plenty of playing time as well.
Donovan has some concerns going into the game. The veteran’s didn’t exactly light it up last week in the exhibition against Nebraska-Kearney where they were outplayed by the freshman. Throw in the Gators missing Wilbekin and Casey Prather who suffered a concussion in practice this week, and they are playing seriously short-handed. Regardless of who’s playing and what type of lineup they decide on it’s more about commitment than the names on the jersey.
“I think a perfect example of what I’m saying is we’re playing against Nebraska-Kearney and we’ve got a veteran group on the floor and it’s a six point game and I throw in five freshman basically with Will Yeguette and we go up by twenty points,” said Donovan.
“so regardless of him (Wilbekin) being here or not being here a lot of it’s going to come down to our commitment and our conviction with the guys who are playing in the game.”
Playing outside on the deck of a navy ship may present it’s own problems with wind, cold, and possible moisture on the court, all things players have never had to deal with in a sport traditionally played indoors. In the end, however, while Georgetown’s length may be cause for concern, the weather should affect both teams and ultimately Florida’s experience in the post and talent on the perimeter should prove too much for the Hoya’s to handle.