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Tuesday November 19, 2013With no point guard, Billy D must unleash his inner-mad scientist

Updated: 6:33pm, November 19

Mad scientistGAINESVILLE, Fla. -- His mood was upbeat, especially given the situation. Then again, Billy Donovan’s mood is rarely anything but.

He’d just lost his talented and blossoming young point guard, freshman Kasey Hill, to a high ankle sprain in Monday night’s win against Southern. With senior Scottie Wilbekin still suspended, the 16th-ranked Gators suddenly were without a bonafide point guard on the roster.

What now?

“I may just go totally nuts and throw some crazy lineup out there,” Donovan said.

The UF coach and his staff headed back to the proverbial “lab” Tuesday to figure this all out. Given that previous quote, we may see the workings of Billy Donovan, the mad scientist, when the Gators (3-1) take on Middle Tennessee State (4-0) Thursday night at the O’Connell Center.

He indicated as much Monday after Florida’s 67-53 win, hinting he needs to test some really unconventional combinations against the Blue Raiders or else run the risk of having unproven non-point guards under full-court pressure for long stretches of the game.

BillyWhen Hill went down about two minutes into the second half, the Gators had to scramble for a guy to run the offense, scratching possessions from off-guards Michael Frazier (a pure shooter), DeVon Walker (an average ball-handler on the wing), power forward Dorian Finney-Smith (a rangy, 6-foot-8 post player who’s fairly comfortable with the ball in his hands) or swing forward Casey Prather (the best athlete on the team).

The skills are one thing.

But there’s also the matter of knowing the offense from that “1” position.

“For guys like DeVon and Michael Frazier, [playing] the ‘2’ and the ‘3’ and the point, their heads will explode,” Donovan said. “It’s not fair to them.”

Maybe not, but these are drastic times -- at least until Wilbekin gets back -- so look for drastic measures. How ‘bout a 1-3-1 press of all big guys? Finney-Smith at the point, with Prather, Jake Kurtz and Will Yeguete on the second line, and Pat Young manning the back?

When those five guys (the shortest of whom is 6-6) lining up full court, opponents likely will choose to back out of the pressure versus facing a very large UF unit that can throw it over their heads, with a couple really strong finishers in Prather and Finney-Smith on the other end. The alternative for the Gators will be to play more conventionally, which means having no true ball-handler and penetrator to space the floor in halfcourt sets. They'll have to live some with that, too.

“We’re going to have to do some things and run some different actions,” Donovan said.

Frazier and Walker (who at 6-4 and 6-5 aren't exactly small) could plug into spots in the middle of the press, with Yeguete and Prather spelling Finney-Smith at the top of it. When pressing, it’s good to have two or three guys who can hawk the in-bounder at the top on the ball. The Gators have that. And none of them are injured or suspended.

So there’s that.

“Coach Donovan is going to do a good job of preparing us,” Young said. “But not having Kasey out there is going to change us.”

More like drastically alter. Let the experiments begin.

And end fairly soon, hopefully.

 

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