Because Florida’s men’s basketball team has John Egbunu, it is very rare that Florida will not have the most physically imposing player on the floor on any given night. Few players in all of college basketball are bigger, stronger, or more athletic for a post player than the towering, sinewy Egbunu.
But Gonzaga starts a center who is at least the first two — and how the Gators handle Przemek Karnowski, and his equally massive backup, may determine how they fare in the semifinals of the AdvoCare Invitational on Friday night (9:30 p.m., ESPNU or WatchESPN).
Karnowski is an old-school, flat-footed center, standing 7’1” and weighing around 300 pounds. He’s virtually impossible to dislodge from the block, which is part of why he is shooting 60 percent from the floor and scarfing up defensive rebounds in 2016-17 after returning from an injury that cut his 2015-16 season short.
He’s not Gonzaga’s only massive threat, though: Backup center Zach Collins is far lighter and a little shorter than Karnowski, and he’s been far more efficient, putting in an incredible 18 of his 22 shots this season.
Gonzaga also has three players who have made at least four threes on the year and connected at at least a 44 percent clip, so it’s not as if keeping or forcing the ball out of the big men’s paws is the best strategy. If Florida wants to attack a weak point for the Zags, it might be the play of Washington transfer Nigel Williams-Goss, whose athleticism masks some inefficiency at the point guard position.
But, then again, Williams-Goss has made all 15 of his free throws this year. So hounding him in hopes of getting the turnovers that help get the Gators going isn’t necessarily a great idea.
Florida wanted this challenge when the fields for this event were set, no doubt. Gonzaga’s arguably the best team in the field, and certainly the highest-profile one; even just playing the Bulldogs is a step toward authoring an NCAA Tournament-ready résumé, given the value of playing a high-RPI team.
And it’s cool that there’s notable history between these two teams, even if Casey Calvary’s tip-in to win a Sweet Sixteen game in the 1999 NCAA Tournament seems like it happened far more than just 17 years ago.
This is the first time this season, though, that I have come into a game fully prepared for these Gators to lose. Here’s hoping they prove me wrong by standing tall.