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Greenberg: Defending Erik Murphy key for Arizona against Florida

Florida Gators senior Erik Murphy will be a problem for the Arizona Wildcats just as they hope one of their young players becomes a problem for opponents.


Kenny Boynton is dangerous. So are Mike Rosario and Patric Young.

Yet the Arizona Wildcats biggest worry might be big man Erik Murphy, the Gator senior power forward who shoots 43 percent from beyond the three-point line. Murphy is averaging 11.9 points and 4.6 rebounds per game and presents an issue against the Wildcats young frontline.

That group of big men has struggled to play perimeter defense when Arizona has matched up against smaller ball clubs, and how Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett defend Murphy will go a long way in the Wildcats staying in it against a No. 6 team that looks closer to a top-three team in the country.

ESPN's Seth Greenberg believes the Wildcats will be challenged with defending Murphy off pick-and-rolls. Help from the guards to push him out of his pretty good range will be huge. That, or Sean Miller's club can attempt to switch all screens when Murphy is involved.

But how comfortable will the bigs be doing either of those things? If they switch, there will be mismatches with Florida's lightening quick guards or Murphy in the post. If they are too slow to recover after getting help from Arizona's own guards, Murphy could make them pay.

There are two reasons to believe that Arizona might be capable of handling Murphy. The biggest one is familiarity with the senior. Murphy is from the same prep school as Tarczewski, and Arizona's freshman center played with Erik's brother, Alex, who is now a freshman at Duke, at St. Mark's Prep in Massachusetts.

In fact, Murphy's father, Jay Murphy, is a big influence in the New England area recruiting scene, and is credited with discovering Tarczewski.

The other hopeful point for Arizona is that playing against a stretch four like Jerrett in practice will help them compete against Murphy. In fact, Jerrett's upside is as good as Murphy, who is 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds.