Gator Basketball Weekly Preview – warming up for Bulldogs by playing Bulldogs

Now that Charlie Strong has finished stomping on our hearts and dreams we can focus on the University’s most successful men’s program of the last ten years. (Not counting track and field which has won 4 team championships in the last 3 years. Or swimming where Ryan Lochte alone won 7 national championships. I’m just saying that the basketball team is better than the foot…nevermind, you see what I did there, I don’t have to explain it.) The only basketball game of the week comes on Sunday when Florida travels to Yale. You read that correctly, the Gators are going to New Haven, CT to take on the Elis (Elis is apparently something Yale students call themselves. Imagine if UF alumni called themselves the Flo Ridas.) in UF’s last non-conference game of the season.

There is a long storied history between these two programs dating back 372 days. ( pays a lot of attention to how many days pass between events.) Last year Florida beat Yale 90-70 in Gainesville and the two teams will play another game in Gainesville in the next two years as part of this home and home and home contract. In last year’s contest Kenny Boynton scored 26, Patric Young had 19, and Erik Murphy scored 18. Sunday will be somewhat of a homecoming for Murphy who hails from Rhode Island. This game is another in a series of contests that Billy Donovan sets up so that an upperclassman can play near his hometown. This tradition dates back to a 2001 game at New Hampshire for Matt Bonner and a 2002 game in Charleston, West Virginia for Brett Nelson. (I’m really hoping we can pick up a game at SFCC for Scottie Wilbekin next year.)

I have been following the Yale team closely this season (meaning I bet on them +12 at Nevada a few weeks ago. They covered.) and they aren’t as terrible as many of the other Yale teams from recent years. Yale has only won the Ivy League once since 1962 and the Ivy League hasn’t been setting the world on fire over that time. They are 13-2 at home since last season which shows they have an excellent schedule maker. Check out their December 18th victory over Albertus Magnus (Quick Quiz: Is this school named after one of the World’s Strongest Man competitors or one of the teacher’s at Hogwarts?) for an example of how low level D1 schools find cupcakes. Yale won Friday night at Holy Cross by outhustling them the entire night (FU @BillSimmons) and will try to bring a similar scrappy style against the Gators, but will most likely fail miserably due to being severely outmanned by real D1 athletes at every position. Seriously, Young might accidentally break one of these kids while dunking. The Gators have had a full week to rest and prepare for this game while not only will Yale be playing less than 48 hours after the Holy Cross game, but this will be their 5th game in 10 days in 5 states. Ivy league teams generally play a lot of back to back games due to actually attending class during the week, (suckers) but normally not against the level of athleticism that Florida has. I expect Florida to win this won big. I’m not sure what the spread is but I expect it to be in the 20s and the Gators to win by 30 so lay the points. Last year we won by 20 despite Yale jumping out to a quick 9-0 lead and Greg Mangano scoring 26 points and grabbing 12 rebounds. I don’t expect those early 3s this time around, because even when rested, the Yale team shoots poorly and commits a lot of turnovers and Mangano is playing professionally in Turkey so he won’t be around to save the Bulldogs. That is a bad combination when trying to pull a big upset. To show how different these two teams are on the court it should be noted that while UF leading scorer Kenny Boynton was working on his ball handling last summer to increase his NBA stock, Yale leading scorer Austin Morgan was running an after school program for local children in Mauritius. A worthwhile endeavor I’m sure, but it will not help him Sunday night.

Let’s focus on the Gator team for a bit. Boynton has a chance at moving up the school leader board in a few categories. He needs 3 three pointers to tie Erving Walker and 6 to tie Lee Humphrey for 2nd and 1st in school history. I bring this up because he made 5 against Yale last year. He will tie Eugene McDowell for 4th most games started in school history and on the outside chance he scores 50, he will tie Walker for 4th all time in scoring. Young is also 9 dunks away from tying Al Horford for 9th in Gator history.

Murphy led the Gator team in points, rebounds, assists, and blocks last week in their win over Air Force. Expect a similarly high usage rate by him in this contest as he tries to impress his friends and family that will be in attendance. Murphy should get some good 3 point looks in this game as he continues to show NBA scouts that while he is less athletic than Blake Griffin, he has far more range. Griffin is a step better on defense and a more explosive athlete but Murphy has a higher basketball IQ that he uses on defense to force offensive players into bad positions. (This is part of an ongoing series where I compare Erik Murphy’s NBA chances to a player that he shares nothing in common with. Every other NBA scout endlessly compares him to Matt Bonner and I’m tired of seeing that in print.)

After Sunday’s game with the Bulldogs, the Gators remaining January games are against the Bulldogs, Tigers, Aggies, Tigers, Bulldogs, and Bulldogs in that order, so come back to to find out all you need to know about those matchups.

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