VETTEL: Down Time Good for Hoopsters

I hate it when the Gators don’t play for five or six days, so this eleven day gap between the game with Providence and the one against FAMU is not something I’d vote for. Fortunately for Billy Donovan and company, my input it not a factor. Getting a week and a half without a game will turn out to be the best thing that could happen to the Gators.

Florida has already played twelve games counting exhibitions, and those dozen contests were jammed into 34 days. That’s busier than the conference schedule and all but eliminates one very significant thing: practice. Florida has had to limit the intensity and length of practices for over a month now as they moved from game to game. When you are constantly in game preparation and game analysis mode you are not able to spent time on the basics. Sure, individual instruction helps, but not nearly enough. Even with finals week going on the Gators will be able to have plenty of intense, focused practices that should result in a better team hitting the floor in Tampa December 17th.

Of course, it should be a healthier team hitting the floor at the St. Pete Times Forum a week form Sunday. The time off should allow Joakim Noah to get well past the effects of bronchitis while Corey Brewer should begin rebuilding his strength and stamina after his bout with mononucleosis.

Horford Becoming the Key?

Through the first ten regular season games it’s starting to look like Al Horford’s performances may be the key to how this team plays. In Florida’s eight wins, the 6’9” junior is averaging 14.9 points and 8.6 rebounds. In those games, Horford has 18 assists, eleven turnovers (plus-7) and has been whistled for just 1.8 fouls a game. In the wins, he’s shooting 68 percent from the field and 71 percent from the line.

However in the Gators two losses, Horford’s averages drop to 6.5 points and 7.0 rebounds. He has just one assist and seven turnovers (minus-6) in those games and fouled out each time. In the FSU and Kansas games, Horford was 5-10 from the field and 3-7 from the line.

And just to show it’s not about fattening up on weak teams, Horford was outstanding against the two best teams the Gators beat, Western Kentucky and Providence. In those two wins, Horford scored 37 points and grabbed 24 rebounds as compared to 13 and 14 in the setbacks.

First Impressions From SEC

One month into the season and there has only really been one big (unpleasant) surprise in the SEC as far as I’m concerned. Vanderbilt has struggled to a 4-and-3 record that includes losses to Georgetown and Wake Forest (no big deal) and Furman (very big deal). Kevin Stallings is in his eighth season in Nashville and has just one NCAA bid and four NIT bids to show for his efforts. Vandy returns two excellent players in swingmen Derrick Byars and Shan Foster who combined for 28 points and seven rebounds last season, but the Commodores were really hurt by the transfer of forward DeMarre Carroll who left Vandy for Missouri. Carroll averaged 10.8 points and 6.4 rebounds last season and would have been their best inside player.

Still with his top two scorers and five of his top eight guys back, Stallings had to think this was an NCAA tournament contender. So far it looks instead like Stallings is the first SEC coach on the hot seat.

Well, you can’t say first because Tubby Smith is seemingly always on the hot seat with the impossible to please Kentucky faithful. The Wildcats have been about as expected, better than the ok teams, but unable to beat UCLA, Memphis or North Carolina.

Tennessee dropped games to Butler and North Carolina but bounced back to upset Memphis. Alabama was unbeaten with wins over Iowa and Xavier before losing to Notre Dame Thursday night. Georgia looks better, posting a win over Wake Forest and South Carolina enjoyed a win over Southern Cal.

Noteworthy Marks

Billy Donovan will become Florida’s all-time winningest basketball coach with wins over FAMU and Stetson. He’ll pass Norm Sloan’s total of 235 wins in 92 fewer games. We’ll have more on this milestone coming up.

Lee Humphrey needs two three-point baskets to move pass Kenyan Weaks (198) for fourth on the All-Time UF list. He has an excellent chance of passing the others guys on the list before the end of the season. Brett Nelson has the career mark with 274, followed by Anthony Roberson (267) and Greg Stolt (243).

If you have any chance of being in Gainesville December 23rd get yourself to the O’Connell Center. Florida will host Ohio State and star freshman Greg Oden in what promises to be one of the highlights of the season. Many believe Oden is the most gifted big man to enter college ball since Shaquille O’Neal. If he’s anything close to that, it’ll be a great match up to watch with Noah and Horford trying to show the youngster something. Ohio State is one of the best non-conference teams to come to Gainesville in recent memory.