GAINESVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 11: Guard Mike Rosario #3 of the Florida Gators sets for a shot against the Jackson State Tigers November 11, 2011 at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Florida. Rosario scored 19 points and the Gators won 99 - 59. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Florida takes on Ohio State at 8 p.m. on ESPN2. We'll have a Game Thread up at 7:45; in the meantime, here are five things to watch.
Who gets hot?
Florida's got four streaky bombers in Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, Brad Beal, and Mike Rosario. Ohio State can't quite match that depth, as snipers Jon Diebler and David Lighty have graduated, but William Buford made 44.2% of his threes last year, a better mark than any Gator posted, and Aaron Craft and Deshaun Thomas were not terrible, either. If Florida can fire away and make a bunch of threes, the Gators might be hard to beat.
Can Patric Young handle Jared Sullinger on his own?
I was talking with my friend, the very smart John Ezekowitz of the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective (yes, you may pick that name up off the floor if you would like), about what Young needs to do against Sullinger. He thinks that Young can let him do what he wants, to some extent, as long as he can do so without requiring a help defender, because help opens up another shooter for Sullinger, an excellent passer, to hit. I would tend to agree with that, and I think it's also important to note that it's imperative for Young to defend Sullinger cleanly; no one else on Florida's roster has a prayer of even slowing Sully one-on-one.
Anyone want a rebound?
Sullinger's probably going to grab 15 rebounds; he's just that good underneath the basket. But Ohio State doesn't have another great rebounder, and the Buckeyes aren't as tall as you might think. If Florida's undersized guards or the Pogo Crew of Will Yeguete and Casey Prather (do you like that nickname?) can snare a few of their own, it might make the difference in a tight game.
Who takes the shot?
Speaking of tight games: We have no idea who's taking Florida's game-tying three in the final minute, right? Billy Donovan looked to both Walker and Boynton to do that in the NCAA Tournament, and that led to Florida falling to Butler in the Elite Eight; Walker, of all the guards, has the big-shot pedigree. But Beal has a better chance of not getting his blocked, and the right play might just allow whichever player is open to shoot. If there's going to be an alpha-dog struggle for ownership of the backcourt — and I don't know if there will be — a critical moment in a massive early-season game on national television would be a bad time to have it.
Can Florida win the turnover battle?
Craft was part of the reason Ohio State was so good last year: For a freshman point guard, he was uncommonly adept at thievery, ranking 33rd nationally by stealing the ball on 4.1% of his defensive possessions. Florida's best player in that category? Scottie Wilbekin, 89th at 3.5%. But the Gators can press more effectively this year than last, when Craft handled pressure admirably in Gainesville, and it wouldn't be stunning to see a few turnovers caused by that press.
For more on the Buckeyes, head to Along the Olentangy.