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Ben Ball Monday Roundup [w/ A Little Flashback]

The countdown clock is ticking. The storyline is set. Bruins are now getting ready to play a team, which handed them their worst loss in more than 100 games. Dohn already has a cursory look at the Gainesville monsters:

(Joakim) Noah and (Taurean) Green were the Gators' headliners in the title game, but they had plenty of assistance. Al Horford, a 6-10 forward/center, and 6-9 "small" forward Corey Brewer also scored in double-digits and played stifling defense. And there was also the sharpshooting off-guard, Lee Humphrey, who made 4 of 8 shots from 3-point range.

"Florida, I said all along they're the team to beat, and they're still the team to beat," Howland said. "They have experience. They have the best two big guys on the same team in the country, both future NBA players.

"Brewer is absolutely terrific. He'll be an NBA player, and really, the guy that's unsung for them is (former NBA player) Sidney Green's son. He's one of the best point guards in the country. Their point guard, he's terrific."

Florida's starting five was the driving force in UCLA's worst loss in more than 100 games, and each is back. Humphrey is a senior, the other four are juniors.

Also, the Gators are balanced, led by Horford, who is averaging 13.4 points and 9.3rebounds per game. Green is scoring 13.1 points per game, followed by Brewer (13.1 ppg) and Noah (12.1 ppg), who is also grabbing 8.4 rebounds per game.

The lone starter not averaging double-figures is Humphrey, who is at 9.8 points per game. Humphrey, however, is Florida's best perimeter shooter, who regained his touch by going 7 of 13 from 3-point range in scoring 23 points against Oregon. Humphrey is shooting 45 percent from beyond the arc this season.

The only contributor gone from last season is forward Adrian Moss, who was replaced by freshman Dan Werner.
So Florida is going to be a huge challenge but not an impossible one. Allow me to go down (my limited) memory lane one more. How many of you here remember the Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV from 1990? That was a team which much like today’s Gators dominated the college basketball season for two straight years starting from 1989 to 1991. The team of Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony, Anderson Hunt reached the top of the college basketball world in April of 1990 when they thoroughly HUMILATED Coach K’s Duke basketball team by 30 points. The following year the teams met again in the Final-4 with pretty much the same nucleuses intact. No one gave the Duke team led by Laettner, Hurley, and Hill much of a shot. Duke was supposed to be a bump towards UNLV’s coronation. It was a done deal. And the rest is history. Duke came out, played some defense, held an explosive Rebel team to under 80 points, and pulled out one of the more memorable wins in the Final-4, initating their own impressive run through the rest of 90s.

Well I think kind of the same scenario could play out this Saturday night in Atlanda. Florida is going to overwhelming favorites heading into this weekend. I am sure most of the blowhards in the national media are going to go ga ga over how Joakim and his buddies came back for one more season so that they could make history. I am not sure UCLA will be given much of a chance. And frankly given how we played during last year’s Finals, I am not sure if we can really blame the Gators, their fans, and the national reporters for giving the Bruins much of a chance.

But … there is a huge but here. The best coach in America (at least in the eyes of Bruins Nation) will have almost 6 days to prepare for a team, which handed him the most humiliating defeat in last two years. We will get into strategy concerning the Gators probably starting tomorrow. But right off the bat my impression is we could see some tweaks in our traditional defense against the Gators. I am not sure we will see Mata on Noah with lots of double teams. I can see why coaches may decide to put Luc on Noah, and put Mata on Horford who may not be as agile and quick as Noah. And then on the perimeter of DC and AA will need to come out like a pack of wild dogs, and (defensively) ATTACK the hell out of Green and Humphrey. Our guards will need to lock down the defense around 3 point line so that those guys cannot go off like they did against the Ducks (and us last year).

Going back to Saturday’s game, I think we played a sloppy game on offense, which left a lot of room of improvement. It was the heroics of AA, timely 3 pointers by Shipp and DC, and some clutch turnovers on D, which ensured our win. However, we cannot afford to be as sloppy on offense as we were on Saturday. DC specifically had an atrocious game on offense, turning the ball over 7 times, while registering 3 assists. That game IMHO actually showed how the kid is at least one year away from going pro (something we will take up after the season is over). He needs to be more controlled, relaxed, and calmer on the offensive side of the ball and make better decisions. Same goes for Luc, who was money on the defensive side of the ball, but didn’t play up to his potential on the offensive end. I am not asking Luc had to score 18 points on Saturday night. But I think he needs to be much stronger in terms of holding on the ball (5 TOs), and finish around the rim (make his layups). So while we may have to switch up in terms of matchups a bit, and be more strategic about who and whether we want to bring our double teams, on the offensive side we will need to be more focused and show more poise when it comes to executing our sets, and finishing on our fast breaks. I am excited. I think Coach Howland and his staff are going to work on correcting the issues from past Saturday, and have our boys in focused like laser this Saturday.

Elsewhere, couple of notes for this Monday. Pucin reports on the bonuses Coach Howland is going to receive for making the Final-4 (again I think his salary needs to be doubled), and Whicker from the OC Register has a story on Assistant Coach Keating, who is a hot commodity in the coaching market for Mid Major programs. I am sure Coach Howland has a plan in place should Keating opt to run his own show working to build his own program.

For now though the focus is on Florida. I am telling you I have been thinking of that Duke-UNLV rematch for 1991 for quiet a while now. That was one of the most memorable tourney games I remember from my high school days. I just have a feeling something similar could be in store for us this Saturday.