Gators will face unique challenge

Michael Frazier faces a tough test at Vanderbilt

It has been almost two years since Florida played a game at Memorial Gym in Nashville. The unique shooting backdrop can create havoc for teams that aren't used to it, making Florida's Tuesday morning shootaround even more important. The Gators' first game as the No. 1 team in the country will come with a challenge.

It's a challenge recent Florida teams haven't been able to handle, especially with that No. 1 ranking. The last time the Gators were No. 1 happened in the 2006-07 season and ended when Florida was upset in Nashville by an unranked Vanderbilt team. It's the same setting for Tuesday night.

And it could happen again if the Gators struggle from the field. The corners of Memorial Gym don't have seats. Instead, gold, square columns come out of the corners. It creates a different look to an arena and unlike anything the Gators have seen this year.

"There's going to be some places we're going to go to that our team hasn't been there," Billy Donovan said. "We've got plenty of time to prepare and get ready for that."

Florida doesn't rely much on the three-pointer this year, and the unique setting will affect Michael Frazier and Scottie Wilbekin the most. The sample size for Wilbekin at Memorial Gym isn't big. In two games, he has scored a combined 10 points and is 2-3 from behind the three-point line.

Frazier, a sophomore, will play his first game at Vanderbilt since the teams didn't meet in Nashville last season because of a schedule quirk.

"I've seen it on TV, heard about it," Frazier said on Monday. "The goal's still 10 feet, the three-point line is still the same difference, so I don't think it will be that much different."

The gym also puts each team's bench behind the baskets. In the first half of the game, the Gators will constantly have their backs to the Florida bench, whether playing offense or defense. That will flip in the second half, but it puts pressure on Wilbekin to run the team and be effective early.

"You have to rely on your guards and your team to get us in and out of offense, to recognize defense because it's in front of them," Donovan said. "That's kind of the unique part of it there. We need to get in and out of offenses, we need to get in and out of defenses, and we need to know what we're doing. You've got to address those things, but ultimately our guys have to go out there and play."

The Commodores are 15-11 this season with a 7-7 record in conference play. They're looking for a win to put at the top of their resume and hoping to build momentum for a potential NCAA Tournament bid. The Gators coming to Nashville provides a perfect opportunity for that to happen.

"We know we're in this position," senior forward Will Yeguete said. "We know that teams are going to probably give us their best shots. It's obviously something that we need to respond and try to keep calm as well. Whether we're No. 1, I think every team wants to beat us, especially because we're undefeated in the SEC."

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