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Depth, Health Keys to Badgers-Gators Clash

Florida's lack of depth will become a major concern if Erik Murphy cannot play. Meanwhile, getting a vintage effort from a recovering Mike Bruesewitz could make a tough road task easier for Wisconsin.

Ryan Evans' flat top and imaginary motorcycle are also key.
Ryan Evans' flat top and imaginary motorcycle are also key.
Michael Ivins-US PRESSWIRE

If you thought Wisconsin had some bad luck leading up to the season, please excuse Florida fans for having little pity for us.

The most recent news to is that an illness has left senior forward Erik Murphy as questionable for Billy Donovan's No. 10 Gators (1-0) in addition to the two other players expected to miss Wednesday's game versus the No. 22 Badgers (1-0). As a result, Florida's reserves will be extremely young behind its talented and experienced starting five for this marquee early-season matchup.

Starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin will likely not play after being indefinitely suspended last weekend for a violation of team rules. Fellow junior Casey Prather is recovering from multiple concussions and will not be available. Sophomore forward Cody Larson also left the program in October. Counting Murphy, that means zero returning scholarship letterwinners are available off the bench. None.

For the record, I expect Murphy to play. He just may not be 100% prepared after experiencing headaches and nausea this week that forced him to miss practice.

In the same vein, Wisconsin's senior forward Mike Bruesewitz beat the odds by playing in UW's opener Sunday, but probably won't be back at full speed for several more games. I would expect Frank Kaminsky to get his second career start.

Kaminksy and Jared Berggren can hold their own, but will definitely have their hands full with the Gator big men.

Murphy teams with junior Patric Young in a very formidable duo in the Florida front court. Murphy would fit in well on Bo Ryan's roster with his ability to shoot the rock from the outside (42% career 3-point shooter). Young, on the other hand, is cut like former Detroit Piston Ben Wallace. He's a beast on the glass and a much more effective scorer around the basket than Wallace ever was, hitting nearly 62% of his field goal attempts last season.

Wisconsin should have a decided advantage on the wing, however. Being able to throw seniors Ryan Evans and a (hopefully) healthy Bruesewitz out at the third forward spot could be UW's shot at victory. Not to mention the "could explode at any moment" Sam Dekker vibe, with Mr. Moxie, Zach Bohannon, in support.

Evans, of course, will have to bounce back from a rather inefficient 2012 debut in which he missed seven of eight free throw attempts. But we know he can score and defend. If Bruesewitz can somehow channel a Kansas State circa March 2011-type performance, I like Bucky's chances.

Opposite Evans will be Will Yeguete, whom Gators fans seem to feel comfortable with stepping into the starter's role. Though, if Murphy is not himself, Yeguete is ill-suited to play inside.

Though it may be troublesome for Young and Murphy to log major minutes at forward with no relief, senior Kenny Boynton is a major weapon for Florida at guard. Boynton has been a phenomenal scorer ever since he stepped foot on the Florida campus. Like Murphy, Boynton hit over 40% on threes last season, while averaging 15.9 points-per-game. He led the Gators with 22 points, six rebounds and five assists in their opening 84-35 demolition of Alabama State on Sunday.

Running alongside Boynton is Mike Rosario, another highly-touted scorer coming out of high school who transferred in from Rutgers to come off the bench last season. A starter now that Brad Beal is in the NBA, Rosario could have a breakout year as Florida's second scorer.

Luckily for Wisconsin, the 6'2" Boynton and 6'3" Rosario do not pose too much of a height problem for the Badger defense. But George Marshall, Ben Brust, and Traevon Jackson will have to keep their feet moving. Should Brust be able to make the Florida guards work on defense by continuing to hunt for shots near the paint, that can help even things out. It will be interesting to see if Zak Showalter earns any minutes as a potential defensive stopper. I would be surprised, but not shocked.

Meeting Florida's explosive offense is a great litmus test for how this Badger team can stack up against the best Wisconsin defenses of the Ryan era without Josh Gasser.

Conversely, the Gators will make it much harder for the Badgers to score than Southeastern Louisiana did three days ago. Wisconsin will be in an unfamiliar environment, still breaking in a new backcourt. And Donovan, like Ryan, is one of the best in the business.

So the question is, whose bench cracks and whose makes plays?

Projected Starting Lineups

Wisconsin Pos. Florida
Jared Berggren, Sr. F Patric Young, Jr.
Frank Kaminsky, So. F Erik Murphy, Sr.
Ryan Evans, Sr. F Will Yeguete, Jr.
Ben Brust, Jr. G Mike Rosario, Sr.
George Marshall, Fr. G Kenny Boynton, Sr.

KenPom win probability: 39% (61-59 L) 58 possessions