NEW ORLEANS — It was hard not to feel a little sorry for Kenny Boynton. The University of Florida guard sprained his ankle in last week's game against UCLA. Five days later, he's supposed to guard Jimmer Fredette.
That's all? Why not just ask him to fix the budget deficit, too?
When BYU and Florida meet in today's Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament game, all eyes will be on the Boynton-Fredette match. This could get ugly. Fredette scores 50 on healthy guys. He scores 35 while brushing his teeth. How is Boynton supposed to stop him on a bad wheel?
Boynton, of course, was having none of it on Wednesday.
"My ankle, to be honest, I don't think it's going to affect me," he said, noting that he participated in every practice drill. "I'll ice it tonight, so tomorrow it will be good. I won't have any excuses coming into tomorrow. It feels good."
How it feels the first time Fredette fakes right and goes left is another matter.
For all his positivity, Boynton has to be wondering and worrying. Last year at this time, he was doing pretty much the same thing as this — chasing Jimmer. That didn't turn out well for Boynton. Fredette scored 37 as the Cougars won the first-round game against the Gators. And that was when Fredette was still recovering from mono. Hey, embarrassment happens. He scored 52 on New Mexico this year, prompting Lobos guard Dairese Gary to observe, "Fredette, he's a beast. What can say? Some of the shots that he made, I was looking at him in the game like, 'Wow, did you just make that in my face?' "
Without even looking, as a matter of fact.
Fredette got 42 on Colorado State, 43 on San Diego State, 47 on Utah and 38 on Wyoming. Each of the aforementioned teams tried a variety of defenders, to no avail.
All of which prompted me to ask Fredette whether he ever feels sorry for the guy guarding him.
"No, I never feel that way. I'm just human like everybody else, so they're going to do a great job. I'm so competitive that I want to go out and beat the guy in front of me every single night and beat their team every single night," he said. "So no, I don't feel sorry for them."
It would be hard to fault Boynton if he underestimated Fredette the first time they met. The BYU guard is respectful, pleasant, approachable and kind to stray cats. He vaguely resembles and even speaks like the ever-earnest movie version of Frodo Baggins.
And just like Baggins, he's tougher than you think.
"When you see a guy on TV, no matter who he is, you come in and you're like, 'Why is he scoring so much? I'm gonna be the guy to, you know, stop him,' and then he gets in a game and the same thing happens to you," said Boynton. "You want to shut him down, but everyone in the country has been trying to shut him down, so we definitely want to make it tough on him tomorrow."
That won't be easy. While Boynton has a dicey ankle, Fredette's crossover dribble is, well, an ankle-breaker.
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"I see that sometimes during games, and Jimmer will make shots and players will turn to the coach and, like 'What more can I do? He pulls up from 40 feet!' " said forward Noah Hartstock. "You know sometimes it can be frustrating for other teams. Some of these teams, they can't stop him."
Boynton went on to say while Fredette "has no offensive weaknesses," the plan is to limit him as much as possible, but make sure Hartstock, Jackson Emery or Charles Abouo doesn't lift off, either.
Another plan, Boynton said, is to make Fredette work on both ends and "tire him out."
That might work. But if I'm a Florida fan, I don't like his chances. I'd declare it a disaster and call in the National Guard.