Florida fans have gotten used to the Gators being shorthanded on the court this fall, and, despite Alex Murphy making his debut in (white and) orange and blue, that will still be the case today: Eli Carter is sick and will miss the Gators' 5 p.m. tip with Wake Forest in the Orange Bowl Classic (Fox Sports 1 / Fox Sports Florida / Sun Sports).
But Florida's not the more limited team today.
Wake Forest will be without freshman Mitchell Wilbekin — brother of Scottie — thanks to a six-game NCAA suspension, and will be without freshmen Cornelius Hudson and Rondale Watson today thanks to suspensions for conduct detrimental to the team.
And that zaps the Demon Deacons' perimeter offense considerably: Wilbekin has been starting at shooting guard, and Hudson at small forward, and had 28 of Wake's threes on the year. The rest of Danny Manning's squad has combined for 22, three of those tossed in by Watson. It's a hell of a blow to an offense already ranked a dismal 202th in Offensive Efficiency by KenPom, and foul-allergic Florida could short-circuit Wake's plan to slash and get to the line, where they've scored more than 28 percent of their points this year.
The Deacs are better on defense, where hulking glass-eater Devin Thomas has helped them rank second in offensive rebounding percentage allowed, and rank among the nation's top 100 in three-point defense, block percentage, and steal percentage. But Wake is 281st in two-point field goal defense, allowing opponents to make better than 52 percent of their twos, and allows opponents to take more than a third of their shots at the rim.
Florida has used smart passing and dribble-penetration offense to turn three straight games into shooting drills on that end, and might be in for another big day today if Thomas can't anchor the interior effectively.
Murphy is also likely to bolster Florida's offense: He may instantly be the Gators' second-best slasher, just behind Michael Frazier, and has the athleticism to get to the tin and finish. Don't expect him to pick and pop like older brother Erik did: Alex Murphy is, ideally, more like Casey Prather than any other recent Gator, and shouldn't take many threes in his minutes.
I'm gonna be here and on Twitter and maybe using Vine — I taught myself the ropes the other day! — to save any big plays. Follow, fraternize, etc.