I was going to go with “Let’s Get Physical,” but be glad I didn’t. The Florida Gators host the Wisconsin Badgers on Wednesday night in a game that many are hyping like it’s the WWE’s next great pay-per-view event. It’s not; it’s a college basketball game—one that could get a little bumpy along the way, but a college basketball game all the same.
The physical will come mostly from Wisconsin’s end as they are a team that likes to pound. They will challenge Florida when the Gators look to enter the lane and they’ll be bumping all night. The role of the Florida bigs becomes that much more important as they will be hounded every time they touch the ball. From the sounds of it, you would think they would get undercut whenever they leave their feet for a rebound, but that’s being just a tad dramatic.
The Gators can play physical basketball as well, but the question is for how long. Florida likes to stretch the court and make teams play both the game under the basket and behind the three-point line. Their goal will be to drive, take the hits, then get the ball back outside for the open look. After getting beat by whatever weapons the Badgers take into the paint with them, the Gators will kick it out for bomb after bomb after bomb. At least, that’s the game plan (which is very similar to the game plan of many of the Billy Donovan years). How Florida’s physicality matches up with Wisconsin’s determines how successful that will be.
We don’t know a lot of this Gators team so far. We’ve had a game and a half of basketball to go on. One was a season opener in a nontraditional environment and one was against a team not on the same wavelength in terms of talent. What came out of those two instances was a victory of a half of basketball that didn’t count for anything and a blowout that was expected. If the game against Georgetown stood as the first challenge for Florida, Wednesday night’s contest against Wisconsin replaces that.
The Gators hold the No. 10 spot in both of the polls, while the Badgers rank in at No. 20 in the Coaches and No. 22 in the AP. Both are 1-0 with big victories against opponents that are your typical schedule fillers. Florida looks to be the more talented of the two and the team with the better all-around squad, but Wisconsin is coming off a 26-win season itself and does return some experience from a team that made the Sweet 16 a year ago.
As the Gators bounce between talented opponent and overmatched cannon fodder, there are certain games to watch closely. This is one of those games. Keep an eye on Florida’s defense, but also how they manage the game offensively. Watch how they handle the physicality of the team from up north and see how it affects them mentally. Both of these teams are in similar situations—collect as many quality wins early before conference play starts—and both will fight hard for victories.
We’re still in the midst of football season (a very weird and disturbingly delightful football season), but basketball season has begun and the University of Florida has yet another top-10 program in action. Watch, cheer, enjoy, yell, get physical, critique…basically, be a fan.