Through three games of what was — is — supposed to be a breakthrough season for the Florida Gators men’s basketball team, it’s seemed more like the Gators are running into (and building) a brick wall.
On Sunday against the Connecticut Huskies, the Gators might just be able to run.
That would seem on paper to be the primary challenge presented by Dan Hurley’s team on this Sunday at Gampel Pavilion in Storrs (3 p.m, ESPN or WatchESPN): While Florida has been crawling, these Huskies are in full-out sprint. Second in offensive possession length, 35th in adjusted tempo, and 70th in defensive possession length, UConn is happy to get out and see what happens, something that served them well in a season-opening win over Sacred Heart and less so in a loss to Saint Joseph’s.
The Huskies can and do run because of a dynamic backcourt of Alterique Gilbert and Christian Vital, undersized guards with speed who fit the long tradition of UConn fielding such backcourts. But neither has gotten off to a great start shooting this year — Gilbert, in particular, is struggling, having made just 20 percent of his twos — and their points are largely coming at the free throw line, where both have made at least 10 free throws through two games.
Beyond that backcourt, though, UConn gets a lot shakier. A frontcourt of Josh Carlton and Akok Akok has length but little offensive skill, and forwards Sidney Wilson and Tyler Polley have only been complimentary pieces so far, despite Polley starting the year hot from three (five-for-nine).
Florida has the length, talent, and conditioning to play at UConn’s preferred pace — and it might not actually suffer from being sped up itself, as some fast-break points and transition dunks could do wonders for an offense that has often bogged down in the half court and seen far too many open threes catch iron.
But whether or not it takes a sprint, Florida winning this game would go a fair distance to restore faith that has been shaken by a shaky start.