I'd like to preface this post by saying I don't have a lot of experience watching Florida play basketball this year. I posted a few times regarding my admiration (objectively) for Billy Donovan and his squad, who seem to be an extremely hot team this late in the season. But I've tried to do a bit of research and predict matchups, try to shake out a bit of strategy, and give an overall feel for how this game will go.
Florida is a guard-oriented team this year, as opposed to the hated ones we met in 05-06 and 06-07. Those teams were headlined by their twin post players, Center Joakim "Dude looks like a (ugly) lady" Noah, and Al Horford. Many a sleepless night was spent with visions of one of them getting the entry pass, the inevitable Bruin double team, only to be thwarted by a skillful dish to the other post player for the easy bucket with no rotation. Third most valuable on that team was Corey "I hate you" Brewer, who decided to have the best games of his life when he played the Bruins. A 6'9 monster, he was a skilled yet strong wing player who found his shooting touch just in time to torch us. Gave us fits on the defensive end. Throw in their point guard Taurean Green, who has done nothing much since those games, and Lee "poor man's Redick" Humphrey, and you have a Bruin slaying machine. We were, at the time, a guard oriented team, and we were outcoached, outhustled, and outplayed. Twice. Eff.
Now, this year, the tables have turned. We enter as the post-oriented team, with arguable 3 of our four most important players at the Small forward, power forward, and center positions, and Florida as the more guard-oriented team. To begin, they have four players averaging double digit points. The first is the engine of their offense, Erving Walker, the 5'8" Jr. point guard who does a pretty darn good Nate Robinson impression, at 14.5 ppg. He's shooting at 41.5% percent from the field, and 38.7% from 3, making about 2 per game, averaging 3.4 assists/2.4 turnovers per game, and roughly 3 rebounds. He had 15 points against Ohio St, 13 against Kansas, and 18 against Xavier, so the kid can play in big games. Expect lots of dribble penetration. This guy gets to the line a LOT, averaging 5.3 FT per game. Zeek's likely matchup, we'll need our wounded warrior to step up and really put the clamps down on him.
Next up is PG/SG 6-2 Soph. Kenny Boynton. This year he's averaging roughly 14 points, at a 38% clip, and shooting threes at 32.3%. Don't let these numbers fool you, as he's as heady of a guard as we've faced all year, and is the guy Florida looks to to make big shots. He averages about 2 3's per game. Combine that with Walker, and their two starting guards already have 4 made 3s per game (yikes). He's also shooting 81.7% on free throws, so he's a threat at the line. This kid was 5-8 on 3 pointers against Ohio St. with 21 points, 2-4 against KState with 15 points, and the same against Xavier for another 15. He is a scoring threat, having scored in double figures in all but 5 games. Expect Malcolm Lee do do his best job locking down Mr. Boynton.
Next up is the leader of their frontline, 6-10 Sr. PF Chandler Parsons. He nearly registered a triple-double against Santa Barbara, with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 10 assists. He is the quintessential Billy Donovan post player, a sweet passing big man who can shoot and post up. He's averaging 11.5 ppg, shooting at a 50% clip, 7.8 rpg, and 3.7 assists to 2.4 turnovers. He's made about 1 3-pointer per game, and he shoots them at a 38% level. Meaning, he's a threat to score anywhere on the court. Expect to see Reeves against him, and Reeves will have the strength advantage on offense, but will be hard pressed to lock him down on defense.
Now to Vernon Macklin, Florida's senior center. He stands an inflated 6-10 and 245, he will be, like most centers, dwarfed by our Josh Smith. However, he's still a good scoring threat, averaging 11.3 points per game, shooting 57%, and grabbing 5.5 rebounds per game. He doesn't get to the line much, but he's an adept inside scorer and 5 fouls to give on Josh. Expect a battle of the big man down low, and I expect to see Josh dominate inside.
Finally we come to Honeycutt's likely matchup, Sr. Alex Tyus. He's pretty much equal with Tyler at 6'8, 220 pounds, and has seen his scoring average dip from 11 ppg last year to roughly 8.5 this year. He shoots at 48%, but is an abysmal 3 point shooter at 20%. He is, like Tyler, an advanced rebounder, grabbing 5.5 per game, but is somewhat turnover prone, with a .61 A/T ratio. Expect to see Tyler rely on his size in shooting matchups, and see plenty of blocks on the defensive end.
Lastly, their main bench players: Scottie Wiebkin and Erik Murphy. Murphy is a 6-10 Soph averaging 4.4 ppg and 2.4 rpg, shooting 50%. Wiebkin is a 6-2 freshman averaging 2.6 ppg and 1.7 apg who shoots a reasonable amount of 3s, making 31% of them. Both provide solid bench scoring. Lastly, we'll see freshman Patric Young, a 6-9, 245 pound freshman averaging 3.4 ppg and 3.8 rpg. He impacts the game more as a volume rebounder, but is still a threat to score. Strangely, Wiebkin seems much like our Tyler Lamb in terms of output, Murphy like our Anthony Stover, and Young like our Brendan lane.
My analysis after the jump.
Florida enters at #14 on Ken Pomeroy's rankings, ranking 16 in adjusted offensive efficiency, and #31 in adjusted defensive efficiency. Compare this to our Bruins, who rank at #85 in adjusted offensive efficiency, and #35 in defensive efficiency. This is to say, Florida is excellent at getting good shots, and still plays high quality defense. I figure the SEC is down this year, as is the Pac, so we're evenly matched in that regard.
Florida has played some quality opponents, losing to Ohio St. at home by 18, beating Kansas St. by 13, and Xavier by 4. They also beat Vanderbilt by 4 points in overtime in Gainesville, by 10 at Vanderbilt, and again in the SEC tournament by 11, and Kentucky by 2 points. They lost the second matchup with Kentucky in Lexington by 10. Experience wise, I believe we have a better quality win against BYU, but they've played some decently ranked teams quite well. I believe we're evenly matched in this regard.
Age wise, we are at a disadvantage. As noted above, Florida starts 3 seniors in Tyus, Macklin, and Parsons, a junior in Walker and a soph in Boynton, compared with our JC transfer Zeek, Jr. Lee, Soph. Honeycutt and Nelson, and Frosh Smith. They will definitely have the experience edge, and it will put the pressure on our boys to play smarter, as these Florida boys know how to win.
As for the atmosphere, as much as I hope it will be predominantly Kentucky fans (I can't believe I'm saying this), but I believe it will be pretty heavily skewed in favor of Florida. It's Tampa, after all, a mere 2 hours from their Gainesville campus, the equivalent of UCLA playing in San Diego. Ultimately the crowd, I believe, will be in their favor.
Coaching wise, I believe Billy Donovan is an excellent coach, as is Ben. This will likely be a wash, with Donovan being a slight favorite as he's already beaten Ben twice in big games. However, we can't forget why Ben is one of the most highly respected coaches in the nation.
Finally, strategically speaking, I think Florida will use their athleticism to play us up and down the court and exploit our weak transition defense for easy buckets, wide open 3s, and foul shots. Expect them to push the tempo, use dribble penetration off screens, and try to draw fouls, specifically on Reeves and Josh. If we can protect them, stop them at the point of attack, and step out on their shooters, we have a real size advantage inside in terms of length and Josh Smith. Defensively, I believe they will let Macklin try to take Josh one-on-one, eventually trying to double team him as they realize his impact. Expect lots of ball pressure from Boynton and Walker, who will try to create turnovers and prevent penetration using their athleticism. We posess a height and length advantage at the guard positions, and we need to exploit it as much as possible. Finally, expect to see Josh fouled many, many times. They have several forwards to soak up fouls, and Donovan runs a reasonably deep bench, about 9 men deep. If our bench can step up and provide solid minutes as they did against MSU, and our starters, especially Honeycutt, Nelson and Smith establish themselves, we can win this game. But it will not be easy. So here's to feasting on some GATOR come Saturday night. Come early, cheer loud, and stay late as we try to advance to the Sweet 16! Win or go home, Bruins!
Oh yeah, and f#$@ the Gators.