If this is indeed judgement week for LSU, then it makes sense to think of this game as a chance for the team to make their opening statements. The 14-4 (2-1) Gators have been a very shaky road team so far this season, winning only 1 of 5 in true road games. At home, however, they are yet to lose a game, though they really haven't gone against a very good home slate just yet.
The bad news for the Florida Gators is that Patric Young will be playing, but it won't be at 100%. Tendonitis has been bothering the center, and on a team with such little forward depth they need all the help they can get against the big LSU team. He is expected to play, though perhaps less than his normal playing time and possibly at a lower level due to the nagging injury.
The guard depth for Florida should provide some good back up though. Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker, Mike Rosario, and Brad Beal make up one of the best core set of guards in the country. Combined, three of them are McDonald's All Americans. They average, combined, over 50 points a game, while three of them shoot 3's better than 40% on the season so far. Kenny Boynton leads the way with over 18 points a game, followed by Beal at 14 a game and Walker at 12 a game.
Make no mistake about it, this is a team that can win any game they play, simply because all four players possess the ability to get hot at any time, and can be unstoppable as a unit. The three point shooting can keep them in every game, and gives them the opportunity to outshoot their opponents. Needless to say, the rebounding has to be suberb today for LSU to have a chance.
Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer will have to counter today against the press. Coach Billy Donovan is willing to use the press to try and force turnovers. With the quickness that his guards possess, it will perhaps be the toughest test LSU will face this season in regards to the full court press defense.
LSU does have a distinct edge down low, however. With Young not at 100%, Justin Hamilton will need to be in attack mode today. In addition to that, the other forwards are not as experience as either Malcolm White or Storm Warren, and it may provide opportunities for them to have big games.
LSU likes to play slow games, while Florida is the opposite and likes uptempo. That may be one of the deciding factors in this game. Make no mistake, LSU will need to be sharp on offense, even if they play good defense, because today isn't a game where I expect Florida to score less than 60 a game. Stringer, Turner, and Hickey will all need to make shots from the outside to counter the Florida barrage of 3 pointers.
Luckily for LSU, Walker and Boynton are also quite small in size, so there will be opportunities for Stringer and Hickey to get their shots off without it being tipped or blocked.
What to look for today: It's definitely a day to look at the coaches(NH) and see what kind of adjustments they make both within the game and at halftime. This is the kind of game where I would expect the players to "get theirs", and it may come down to the execution of gameplans to win it. Tempo will be part of that.
Vegas is giving LSU 14.5 points in this game, and thinks that it will be higher scoring. Interestingly, however, is the initial line that opened at 131 and has since moved to 138. It's quite a jump, but it may reflect the fact that bettors think LSU will have a bad day on defense.
This is the kind of game I wouldn't want to bet on. It really could go either way. The points are always enticing, especially if LSU was able to hold Florida to 64-68 points even if the game wasn't close. That said, Florida plays so much better at home you expect them to beat an inferior team like LSU. Of course, we've seen LSU play pretty well on the road for the most part, but they still haven't pulled off a big win like this would be.
One point I would like to make is that, while I will probably predict losses for the next 3 games, I actually think LSU will win one of them. Individually, I don't see how LSU stacks up against them. Collectively, I think that LSU is talented enough to shock us and win a game they aren't supposed to win.
So for today, I think UF gets a win, perhaps in a closer game than Vegas suspects. I'm thinking somewhere in double digits but not 15 or higher.
Gametime is set for 5:00 CT, and the game is set for FSN and/or ESPN3. ESPN3 will be blacked out for SEC states, however.