Most basketball analysts have characterized this game as an epic match up of the Bruin offense vs. the Gator defense, with most picking the defense to win the day. I don't necessarily agree with most analysts. It is true that the Gator defense is one of the top defenses in the nation, rated 5th in adjusted defense per kenpom. It is also true that they have accomplished this without a shot blocking presence, actually ranking below the NCAA average of of 9.5 blocks per game. The key to a Bruin victory is understanding how the Gator D is so successful.
Without a significant shot blocking presence to discourage dribble penetration, the Gators keep players out of the paint by quickly rotating and swarming the ball once the offensive player makes a move toward the basket, collapsing on him with mulitple defenders. How do they do this? The Gators play pressure man to man on the ball but zone up away from the ball. When a team runs a high screen roll with a big, for example, Young will leave the screener and play zone. In order to facilitate trapping a potential penetrating PG, he plays in the middle of the imaginary triangle created by the high screener, ball and basket. At the same time, the week side defense zones up the passing lanes. The reason they are so successful is that they do it with perfect timing. But with Young playing nothing but paint, somebody should be open and the D's strength also becomes its weakness.
Most teams don't have bigs who can shoot. We have two players that specialize in long 2 point shots. Sometimes, they even get their feet behind the arc for the occational 3. With our personnel, it is a simple matter to attack the Gator half court defense. The Wear twins have the answer with the best pick and pop game in college basketball. If you combine that with Kyle Anderson, who can see over the defense and deliver a pass whether the D doubles him as he comes off the screen or whether Young zones up when the ball is on the wing, you have a winning formula. Unless Donovan has some trick up his sleeve as a pregame adjustment, that pick and pop shot should be there and either Wear can hit that shot. They have to hit that shot.
The other foundation of the Gator defense is their match up press. Beating the press is easier said than done but we all know that the key is to keep the ball away from the sideline once over half court because that's where the Gators spring the trap. Typically, they trap a drbbler as he rushes up the sideline, thinking that the secret to breaking the press is to get the ball up the court as quickly as possible. It's fool's gold. The Gators play one defender on the ball, another zoning the closest sideline, and one more playing center field. The press feasts on hurry and panic. Either the dribbler gets trapped againse the sideline and two defenders or he sends a pass across the court were the center fielder can pick it off.
I like our chances against the press for two reasons. First, we have Anderson. He never seems to be in too much of a rush or panic. When he advances the ball, he does so deliberately and is tall enough to see over the pressing defender. He takes his time and sees the trap before it's sprung. Secondly, we've had success breaking the press by using the Wears as an outlet rather than breaking it with the dribble. The Wears have improved to the point that we can say they are actually good passers and we know they are tall enough to field a high pass out of the trap.
This brings us to the key to the game. The Wears have to stay on floor in order to exploit this match up and Kyle has to run the point rather than shifting to the forward slot. In order for this to happen, the Wears have to stay even on the glass. If the Bruins start getting pounded on the offensive glass, Alford will move Kyle to the front court. So what happens when the Wears come out of the game and Kyle moves to the front court? Your guess is as good as mine.