Well, in my last post in this series, I did predict a close game between the Bruins and Michigan State. Of course, my idea of 'close' was not to take a 20 + point lead, and nearly blow the whole thing in the final few minutes... But, I did get proven correct (oh, and we won too...). With that victory, we have earned the opportunity to face down an old and familiar foe; the Billy Donovan-led Florida Gators. I'm going to go easy on the analysis, both because there is only so much time before the game for me to write and you to read, but also because OswegoBruin has done such a good job in analyzing this year's Gator's squad, and DCBruins should soon be putting up his usual top-notch game preview.
Florida currently has a 27-7 record, having earned an at-large bid as the Southeast region's #2 seed after winning the SEC regular season championship with a 13-3 record. After 11-point victories over Tennessee and Vanderbilt, the Gators fell in the SEC Championship game to Kentucky 54-70.
The Bruins and Gators shared no common opponents this season. Despite losing their final game before entering the NCAA's, Florida finds themselves riding a very hot streak, having lost only twice (both to UK) since an embarrassing loss to Mississippi State in the final weekend of January. While the SEC was considered to be a weak conference this year, the Gators did play a few good games out of conference to build up their resume, including games with Ohio State, Kansas State and FSU - overall, they played 5 games against eventual NCAA Tournament teams in the non-conference schedule, going 4-1 in the process (including a close win over 1st round darlings Morehead State). Overall, they played 16 games against such opponents, going 13-3 in such games. Florida also racked up some bad losses in the process, losing at home to Jacksonville (RPI-142, KenPom-165) and South Carolina (RPI-134, KenPom-126).
Now for a look at the ratings...
Not the most encouraging numbers, I have to admit. In a meta note, Florida does not get quite the same level of respect from the computer rating systems as it does by the RPI. This follows along well the narrative of Florida's placement in this year's tourney, where purely by RPI, they are a solid 2-seed, but where the popular opinion on selection sunday and the days following that the Gators were given a seed 1 or 2 lines above what their play deserved is borne out by those computers.
Here is a look at the efficiency metrics and pace of play for the Bruins and Spartans. For information sake, I will show the teams' efficiency stats against only conference opponents, as well as their overall stats. I do not know how well, if at all those (latter posted) stats will help a comparison of the teams, but you can at least see how the teams fared against their peers - and separated from (mostly) early season non-conference tilts.
* Offense: 115.7 points/100 possessions (#17 in D-1). SEC only: 110.9 points/100 possessions (1st in SEC)
* Defense: 92.7 points/100 possessions (#35 in D-1). SEC only: 99.2 points/100 possessions (4th in SEC)
* Pace: 64.1 possessions/40 minutes (#285 in D-1). SEC only: 63.1 possessions/40 minutes (12th in SEC)
* Offense: 106.9 points/100 possessions (#85 in D-1). Pac-10 only: 102.5 points/100 possessions (4th in Pac-10)
* Defense: 92.8 points/100 possessions (#35 in D-1). Pac-10 only: 95.7 points/100 possessions (1st in Pac-10)
* Pace: 66.6 possessions/40 minutes (#174 in D-1). Pac-10 only: 65.8 possessions/40 minutes (8th in Pac-10)
As a brief comparison to our last opponent, Florida's defense has been equally as efficient as Michigan State's was over the course of the season, but the Gator offense has been much better, averaging an extra 7 points/100 possessions (good for an extra 4-5 points/game), as well as an extra 9 points/100 possessions better than the Bruins. The Gators have been playing at an awfully slow pace, amassing the fewest possessions per game of any SEC team, and one of the lowest totals in the country this year.
Using the above efficiency measures, together with the average pace of the two teams' play, the average game score of each team, based upon an equal schedule composed of average Division 1 teams would be:
- UCLA: 71-62
- Florida: 74-59
- Game Predictions: Pomeroy - Florida 69-62; Sagarin - Florida by 5 points on a neutral court, 6.5 points if counting this as a semi-home game for the Gators. Vegas spread - Florida by 5.
For the second straight game, the Bruins enter the arena in Tampa as the underdog. This time, however, it is not as a near toss-up, but in a game that few outside the greater bruins nation believes that UCLA can win. Thankfully, those are exactly the sorts of games in which we have seen our extraordinarily inconsistent team come out best in. Let's hope that holds true for another afternoon.