Illnesses Could be “Healthy” in Long Run

Obviously not everything stayed in Vegas as the Gator Basketball team brought back a collection of bugs, viruses and infections. While most appear minor, indications are Corey Brewer’s case of mononucleosis is the biggest concern. I’ve never had mono, but both of my daughters did and it was incredibly debilitating.

I would not be surprised if it took Brewer more than a month to regain his full strength.

As a result, Brewer’s minutes need to be spread out with most of them going to Dan Werner and Jonathan Mitchell. While Florida Coach Billy Donovan may continue with Walter Hodge in the starting lineup and open games with a three-guard look, most of the time I expect the team will play with its typical alignment. That means Werner and Mitchell end up sharing the “3” spot and Marrisse Speights gets additional time in the front court.

Mitchell, Werner Capable

Werner has been the most active Florida rookie, playing 15 minutes a game through the first eight contests. He has shown excellent all around skills with decent ball handling and passing and solid rebounding. Werner has taken and made the most shots among the Florida newcomers. However his shooting stroke has been off, and his 10-for-33 (.303) pace needs to improve.

Mitchell has shown me excellent court awareness as evidenced by his eleven steals which is second on the entire team. He also has a very solid 8/4 assist to turnover ratio that belies his inexperience. Mitchell also looks like he’ll be a strong rebounder. He is averaging almost three per game despite playing just twelve minutes.

Neither of Florida’s freshman forwards gives the Gators the quickness and explosiveness that Brewer does, and Florida will struggle matching up with a top-flight small forward. If that happens, you might even see Brandon Powell playing the “3” spot in some situations.

With Werner spending more (if not all) of his time at small forward, Marrisse Speights may get some additional time off the bench at the “4” and “5” spots. Speights has been impressive thus far, averaging 6.3 points and 4.6 rebounds a game in just nine minutes on the court. He has strong low post moves and very good shot blocking instincts. The biggest concern about the big man from Hargrave Military is his propensity for committing fouls. Speights has been whistled 14 times in just 71 minutes, which equates to a foul every five minutes. He needs to cut that rate in half in order to get additional playing time.

Upcoming Schedule Challenging, Manageable

The Gators have three significant games left in the pre-conference schedule that should challenge this team to play at a high level. The first comes up Sunday night when the Gators face FSU in Tallahassee. The Seminoles are 4-and-2, having lost to top ten opponents Pittsburgh (88-66) and Wisconsin (81-66). They are led by Al Thornton who surprised many by returning to school. He is a match up problem under most circumstances, but even more so for Florida without Brewer. Toney Douglas and Jason Rich give FSU a solid backcourt, but there are major concerns up front. Those are concerns Florida should be able to exploit.

Providence visits the O’Dome next Wednesday and it could be a historic night. If Florida beats FSU, Donovan will be in position to tie Norm Sloan’s school-record 235 wins against his alma mater. The Friars have a balanced team with four players in double figures let by guard Sharaud Curry (18.6). The Gators beat them up in Rhode Island last year 87-77.

At the end of the month Ohio State comes to town (12/23) and that should be a lot of fun. The Buckeyes may have highly touted freshman center Greg Oden playing by then, but even if they don’t they have plenty to work with. Ohio State just dropped a 98-89 decision to North Carolina for its first loss of the season. They can really shoot it, and have one of the nation’s best freshmen in Daequan Cook who is averaging 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds.

The other December games are pretty much gimmes, so the Gators have no urgency with regards to getting Brewer back. The team will be in good shape no matter what and the extra playing time for the freshmen should pay dividends down the line.