GAINESVILLE — The Florida basketball team is 1½ games into its season and already coach Billy Donovan has had to create lineup adjustments he might not normally need until at least midseason.
The No. 10 Gators host No. 22 Wisconsin in a nonconference, heavyweight matchup both coaches hope will reveal more about their squads.
But Donovan isn't sure which squad that will be, thanks to injuries and attrition. Junior forward Casey Prather (multiple concussions) and guard Scottie Wilbekin (suspension) are out. Tonight, senior forward Erik Murphy might join the list. Murphy has had nausea and headaches for two days because of an illness.
With junior transfer forward/center Damontre Harris out with a torn labrum, Gators' practices now consist of eight scholarship players, two walk-ons and a transfer.
"We're going to find out more about who we are, and where we've got to get better and where we have to improve," Donovan said. … "We've had to battle things early here in the year. There's been some things that have thrown some wrinkles for us right before the season started of being able to make adjustments. So I think this is a game that gives us a chance to see what kind of adjustments we need to make as a team and where we need to get better."
For those that remain, the lineup continues to be shuffled — including early playing time for freshmen Michael Frazier II, DeVon Walker and Braxton Ogbueze — though Donovan admits the three-guard lineup often leaves him with too many inexperienced players.
Senior guard Mike Rosario said the Gators are adjusting as well as can be expected.
"Coach just has been telling us to focus on the guys that we have and continue to come with the same mind-set every day," he said. "When we get everyone back, that'll be good, but for now we just focus on getting better every day and getting ready for our next opponent."
Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan acknowledged it's tough to find other big-time programs willing to play home-and-home games, but now that this series is scheduled, he believes both programs will benefit.
The Gators expect an extremely physical game with Wisconsin, known for its slow-down, smash-mouth style. But after playing Friday night's first half against a physical Georgetown team, Florida believes its up to the challenge.
"Wisconsin is a really good team, so it will be a big challenge for us because we haven't played a ranked team this season," junior forward Will Yeguete said. "Physically, they are big, they have good size, especially inside. So I think it will be a good battle for us. Rebounding is going to be key."
Wisconsin is expecting the Gators to bring an up-tempo, pressure-style in order to counter its slower pace.
"They can bring some heat, especially at home," Ryan said. "They've turned a lot of teams over many times, and I'm sure they're planning on doing the same with us, and we just have to not fall into the traps very often. Make sure we're reading the traps before they come, retreat dribbles, not one-dribble pickups, not — there's a list of about 20 things that, in my mind, you go over about half court, where to catch a ball in relationship to half court, how close to the sideline. You got the 10-second clock on. If you think about it too much, you start to sweat. You get nervous. But it's all read and react."