It is not quite the unstoppable force vs. the immovable object, but the Syracuse Orange present a very stiff challenge for Florida's new found defensive intensity tonight in Tampa. The Orange (8-0; 7/6) are second in scoring, averaging 90.4 points per game and first in field goal percentage (55.7%) The Cuse destroyed nearly all the mid-majors in the Tri-State area in the past few weeks, but they also have wins against Cal and North Carolina on their resume. They are not the team that barely had a pulse against D-II Le Moyne in the preseason.
After defeating FSU and Michigan State, the Gators (8-0, 10/11) are back to where we think they should be. UF is second in 3-point percentage defense (21.4%), 23rd in scoring defense (57.9 ppg) and 57th in field goal percentage defense (38.7%), which isn't bad when you consider there are 334 D-I basketball teams. But the Orange have ran their record against a much tougher schedule.
The matchup to watch tonight will be The New Face of College Basketball, Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus against Cuse big men Wesley Johnson and Arinze Onuaku, who lead the Orange in scoring. Macklin has been fantastic this season, averaging 11 ppg and shooting 66%. But he has to rebound better (only 6 boards ppg) in order to be more than just a big dude clogging the lane. Tyus is shooting better than 50% and averaging about 10 ppg. But he is also around six rebounds a game, as well. Tyus has been freed up with Macklin playing as a true center, and Macklin has the post moves to be successful. Both now need to get to the glass and give the Gators second chances for a still struggling offense. Against Syracuse, they need to rebound to limit the Cuse's possessions.
There will be a big crowd tonight as Tampa is Gainesville South and everyone is ready to climb back on the basketball bandwagon. A win tonight will definitely turn up the hype meter for UF.