[Editor’s Note: This might be the last game we get to preview the basketball team (and if not, it will definitely be in the next round) so I would just like to say thanks to the basketball team for a hell of a run this season.]
We got what we wanted: an NCAA bid. But the Hoos still have to play some more basketball. And the committee, always enjoying interesting opening round games, have paired us with a team that has a completely different philosophy than Virginia, the Florida Gator. But what else can we tell about this 7/10 matchup? Let’s get to breakdown.
Florida finished the season 23-10, 10-6 in the SEC, good enough for 4th in the conference. They played a very solid non conference schedule (109th) which included Ohio State, Syracuse, Arizona, and Florida State. While they prevailed at home versus the Wildcats and Noles, they lost the bigger ones against the Buckeyes and Orange. The only non-conference blip on their resume was a double overtime loss at Rutgers. In conference, they were running rimshot over the conference before dropping the last 3 games at Georgia, at Vandy, and home against Kentucky. Finally, in the SEC championship they defeated Alabama in the Quarters before losing to Kentucky by 3 in the Semis.
The Gators finished with an RPI of 24 and a Strength of Schedule of, well, 24 as well. They were 4-6 against the final RPI top 50 and 10-9 against the top 100. Their only ‘bad loss’ on the season was the 2OT game against Rutgers (162). Just like the Hoos, Florida has 9 road + neutral wins, the biggest coming against Alabama twice, once on the road on Feb. 14 and once in the SEC tournament. In our opinion, the 7-seed line was dead on with a team that finished up with an AP ranking of 25.
Billy Donovan loves quick, up-tempo games dominated by guards and athletic forwards. They use the screen on the perimeter to open up their shooters for 3-pointers which they can be hit by either PG Erving Walker, SG Kenny Boynton, or PF Erik Murphy, the latter who will cause matchup problems for the Hoos forwards. But in a team with a ton of shooters, they are also the SEC leaders in assists per games. When they have been vulnerable this year is when they can’t knock down the 3 pointers or when they can’t grab offensive rebounds.
Like most teams in the NCAA, they will mix up the zone and man-to-man, but overall, they are not a strong defensive team. They were ninth in the SEC in scoring defense and when they can’t produce on the offensive end, it allows teams to hang around longer than they should. In addition, teams that can really get under the Gators skin are teams that can be physical inside. Tennessee banged inside for 4 halves and won both games.
We kind of ran down the starters a little. At the point is Sr. Erving Walker (12.4 ppg, 4.7 apg) who can run the point well, but is very undersized and will draw a good matchup form Bub. Junior Kenny Boynton is the shooting guard and leading scorer with 16.8 ppg and 43.4% 3 point shooting percentage. The swing man is freshman Bradley Beal (14.4 ppg), who at 6-3, runs more like a second shooting guard, but can get inside and grab rebounds on both ends of the court. Down low is junior Erik Murphy, who can face up in the paint, or step outside for the open jumper. He will be Mike Scott’s doppleganger for the game. In the middle is sophomore Patric Young, who, even though he has been battling injuries this year, but can have breakout games against thinner defenses. Off the bench, Donovan will through in guards Mike Rosario and Scottie Wilbekin, as well as forward Casey Prather. All are quality players that could spell the the starters, but are not the best of shooters in the intermediate game.
This is a classic offense vs. defense game. On top of that, it matches a top 10 offensive efficiently team vs. a top 10 defensive efficiency team. And while Virginia has faced teams like this before, Florida is slightly different. Not only can they run up and down the court as score at will, they can play in a slower down game and still score. The later is what is scares me. I view this game as I do one against Duke. If Florida shoots well, the game is over. But if the Hoos can somehow press them in the half court game and force bad shots, they can keep the game close and find a way to pull it out late. The Gators are not big or deep in the middle and actually matchup very well physically, so no decided advantage either way.
As we said before, this game is pretty easy to pick. When Florida makes their shots, they will pull ahead. When they don’t, the Hoos should even it up. If the latter happens more than the former, we win, close. If not, we lose, close. In the end, I chose the defensive team, only if we can manage the last 5 minutes better than in the past 3 contests. Virginia 64, Florida 61.