Posted: 3:40 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013
By Andy Hutchins
Florida's played well in the Orange Bowl Classic of late. But the Gators haven't always done that, or played well around Christmas, and will have to be on guard in Sunrise on Saturday.
Can Florida stay hot — the Gators have won two straight games over ranked opponents, Kansas and Memphis — in Sunrise? That's the question of the day, as the Gators take on Fresno State in the 2013 Metro PCS Orange Bowl Classic.
Florida's won its last three Orange Bowl Classic games, beating Kansas State, Texas A&M, and Air Force in those contests, but Florida has a habit of losing games it shouldn't right around Christmas. In 2011, that was a road loss at Rutgers; in 2010, it was a bad home loss to Jacksonville; in 2009, it was games immediately before and after Christmas — a loss to a good Richmond team in the Orange Bowl Classic was followed by a loss to a bad South Alabama team at home.
Fresno State is just 6-5, and has one win over a team in the KenPom top 150, its season-opening overtime W over UC Irvine. Its losses, though, have come largely against good teams — Pittsburgh, Pacific, Drake, Utah, and California. Florida is better than all of those teams, save maybe Pittsburgh, and has the personnel and style to manhandle the Bulldogs, who are a dismal 341st in offensive rebounding percentage, which negates one of the few good ways to attack the Gators' smallish frontcourt.
And the Bulldogs are also small, especially in the backcourt and on the wing, which will make life easier for Florida's leading scorer, Casey Prather, on his frequent swoops from the elbow and above.
Florida should not lose this game, but if it does, three-pointers will likely be the culprit. Fresno State has three shooters making more than 35 percent from deep, and if anyone gets hot against the Gators' often iffy perimeter defense, this could be a close game ... or an upset.