Michigan v Florida

Florida awaiting medical clearance for Will Yeguete, Eli Carter

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While many college basketball programs have already begun practicing, taking advantage of the new NCAA rule that allows schools to get going 42 days before their season opener (having 30 practices to use), the Florida Gators have yet to hold their first full practice.

Head coach Billy Donovan made the decision to wait until October 11, choosing instead to use this time for individual workouts. The hope is that the Gators will be able to go through preseason practices without having the flow upset by the need to throw in an extra off day in order to satisfy the new NCAA rule.

Could the extra time keep the Gators fresh when games begin on November 8 (Florida opens against North Florida)? With Rutgers transfer Eli Carter (leg) and senior forward Will Yeguete (knee) both yet to be cleared and Scottie Wilbekin still suspended (and working out away from the team), Florida won’t be at full strength when they take the floor a week from Friday.

“[Yeguete] still not cleared to play, don’t know when he’ll be cleared to play,” Donovan said before Wednesday night’s Jimmy V Classic Gala in New York City. “Will not start practice our first day. He’s still in the process of rehabbing.”

Donovan said Carter “still is in the process of recovering” from a broken leg he suffered last February that ended his sophomore season at Rutgers.

How much of an impact Carter has for Florida remains to be seen, but with Wilbekin also sidelined having Carter available would help as Florida looks to develop freshman point guard Kasey Hill.

But there should be no doubting the importance of Yeguete, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Yeguete’s versatility allows him to defend multiple positions, something none of their other front court players were able to do last season. That may change thanks to the presence of Virginia Tech transfer Dorian Finney-Smith and South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris, but neither has Yeguete’s experience in Donovan’s system.

The hope is that both Carter and Yeguete are cleared before the regular season begins, and with the Gators visiting Wisconsin in their second game of the season (November 12) having a game under their belts before the trip to Madison would certainly be optimal.

Syracuse upsets No. 18 UConn as Tyler Lydon stars again

St Bonaventure Syracuse Basketball
AP Photo/Heather Ainsworth
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Michael Gbinije and Trevor Cooney combined for 34 points as Syracuse overcame an early 10-point deficit to knock off No. 18 UConn in the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis, 79-76.

The talking point at the end of this game is probably going to end up being UConn’s decision not to foul Syracuse with 36 seconds left on the clock. Trevor Cooney dribbled out the clock and, with six seconds left, missed a 35-foot prayer, the offensive rebound getting corralled by Tyler Roberson, sealing the win.

But that’s not the real story here.

That would be Tyler Lydon, who suddenly looks like he may end up being the difference maker for this Syracuse team.

If you don’t know the name, I don’t blame you. Lydon was a low-end top 100 recruit that had been committed to the Orange for a long time. He’s not exactly a game-changing prospect, but he’s a perfect fit for Syracuse. At 6-foot-9, Lydon has the length to be a shot-blocker in the middle of the 2-3 zone — he entered Thursday averaging 3.3 blocks — but his biggest skill is his ability to shoot the ball from beyond the arc. When he plays the middle of that zone, when he is essentially the five for the Orange, they become incredibly difficult to matchup with defensively.

The question is whether or not he can consistently be that guy on the defensive end of the floor. Against UConn, Lydon had 16 points and 12 boards. Against Charlotte, he finished with 18 points, eight boards and six blocks. But neither the Huskies nor the 49ers have a big front line that crashes the offensive glass.

Lydon is great at using his length to make shots in the lane difficult, but at (a generous) 205 pounds, he may run into trouble against bigger, stronger front court players.

The perfect test?

Texas A&M, who the Orange will play in the title game on Friday.

USC holds on to beat No. 20 Wichita State

Andy Enfield
Associated Press
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With guards Fred VanVleet and Landry Shamet both sidelined due to injury, No. 20 Wichita State arrived at the Advocare Invitational shorthanded. But even with that being the case the highly successful Shockers represented quite the opportunity for USC, and Thursday afternoon the Trojans took advantage.

Despite turning the ball over 23 times Andy Enfield’s team found a way to win, hanging on to beat the Shockers by the final score of 72-69. Freshman forward Bennie Boatwright, a tough matchup for most teams as a 6-foot-10 stretch forward who can score from the perimeter, shot 5-for-9 from three and scored a team-high (and career-high) 22 points.

The tandem of he and junior Nikola Jovanovic, who added 14 points and 11 rebounds, outplayed the Wichita State front court on a day in which the Shockers needed greater contributions from those players. Add in 15 points and four assists from Jordan McLaughlin, ten points off the bench from Katin Reinhardt and a 12-for-23 afternoon from three, and the Trojans were able to do enough to make up for their high turnover count and Wichita State’s 24 points off of turnovers.

Given the absence of VanVleet and Shamet there’s no reason to panic regarding Wichita State. Ron Baker, who was exhausted by the end of the game due to the heavy load he was asked to shoulder, scored a game-high 25 points and the play of freshman Markis McDuffie was a positive to build on.

McDuffie, who entered Thursday’s game without a made field goal in his first two appearances as a Shocker, shot 5-for-9 from the field and contributed 14 points and three rebounds off the bench. With their current perimeter rotation being what it is McDuffie will have opportunities to contribute, and the Shockers will need him to take advantage as they await the returns of VanVleet and Shamet (and the addition of Conner Frankamp).

Doing so will not only help Wichita State in the short term but in the long-term as well, thus giving Gregg Marshall another option to call upon on his bench.

Thursday’s outcome, even with the desire to see more from Anton Grady (eight points, seven rebounds), says more about USC at this point in time than Wichita State. Enfield’s first two seasons at the helm were about amassing the talent needed to compete in the Pac-12 while also gaining valuable (and at times painful) experience. In year three the Trojans hope to take a step forward within the conference, and wins like this one provide evidence of the program’s growth.