Know Your (Temporary) Rival: North Florida Ospreys

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It's hard to be too scared of bird mascots ... but as far as intimidating birds go, ospreys are up there.  As are their, uh, cousins. The actual North Florida mascot, on the other hand? Less so. But lovable.

As a whole, North Florida -- proud new members of the Atlantic Sun Conference -- are brand spanking new.  Their basketball program played its first game in Melvin Booker's junior season.  They have won 185 games, ever.  When they became a Division I program, Justin Safford was already playing in a Mizzou uniform.  All that considered, this team is coming along nicely.  They are not going to challenge for an NCAA bid just yet, but their four best players are sophomores or younger, and they feature one of the tougher, stronger big men Mizzou will be facing in the non-conference season.

North Florida: 1-2


UNF
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
69.0
Points Per Minute
1.50
1.92
Points Per Possession (PPP)
0.87
1.11
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.04
1.21
2-PT FG% 43.3%
48.8%
3-PT FG% 30.2%
31.7%
FT% 68.3%
64.8%
True Shooting % 47.1%
52.0%




UNF Opp.
Assists 10.7
15.7
Steals 5.0
6.3
Turnovers 17.0
13.7
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
0.92
1.61




UNF Opp.
Expected Offensive Rebounds 13.0
14.0
Offensive Rebounds 11.7
18.0
Difference -1.3
+4.0

The Ospreys do not plod along as slow as Western Illinois, but they will try to use strength to soften Mizzou up a bit.  They were blown off the court by a Pitt team willing to match them blow for blow, but as we will see below, there were somewhat mitigating circumstances with that one.  In all, UNF is not nearly deep enough to keep up with Mizzou for 40 minutes (if Mizzou is making enough shots to press, anyway), but they bring some interesting components to the table.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

UNF Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

UNF Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 299
32
MU big
Effective FG% 241
132
MU big
Turnover % 254
87
MU big
Off. Reb. % 185
71
MU big
FTA/FGA 310
10
MU big
MU Offense vs UNF Defense Ranks

MU Offense UNF Defense Advantage
Efficiency 22
184
MU big
Effective FG% 203
172
UNF
Turnover % 35
209
MU big
Off. Reb. % 248
320
MU
FTA/FGA 89
154
MU

Where the Ospreys are weakest

Sophomore Andres Diaz is a bull in a china shop on the offensive side of the ball, but UNF's overall lack of size absolutely decimates them on the defensive glass.  Mizzou has not been tremendous in that regard, but it appears they still hold an advantage.  The Ospreys also appear to settle for jumpers quite a bit, which results in both low FG% and minimal free throws.  Diaz grabs his share of offensive rebounds, but if he's not scoring, UNF's probably not scoring.

Where they are best

This is actually not a terrible defensive team.  They force mediocre shots without fouling, and their overall defensive Efficiency rating is right in the middle of the pack in the country.

North Florida's Season to Date

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    at #203 Wyoming (76-60)
  • Losses
    at #3 Pittsburgh (49-95)
    at #26 Florida State (55-75)

So ... I'd be willing to bet that no team faced a tougher start to the country than this: last Friday night, North Florida headed from Jacksonville to Tallahassee, where they actually faced only a five-point deficit against a Top 25 Florida State squad with just under 11 minutes remaining before fading.  Then, they hopped on a plane to Pittsburgh and faced a Top 5 Pitt team ... the next day.  They lost by 46, but ... of course they were going to lose by 46.  With a few days to rest, they headed to Laramie and beat up on Wyoming.  Things briefly get easier after Mizzou -- they face Prairie View A&M, Florida Gulf Coast (at home!) and Stetson (at home!) over the next couple of weeks. After that?  at Purdue, at Texas, at Maryland, at Kansas State.  It's the Arkansas-Pine Bluff route to success, I guess.

North Florida Player Stats

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Andres Diaz (6'7, 235, So.) 23.7 0.90 26.3 MPG, 16.3 PPG (65.7% FG), 7.3 RPG, 1.7 SPG, 2.7 TOPG
Charles McRoy (6'6, 195, Fr.) 10.0 0.63 16.0 MPG, 7.7 PPG (37.5% 3PT), 4.7 RPG
Parker Smith (6'3, 150, So.) 9.7 0.38 25.3 MPG, 11.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG (34.8% 3PT, 16.7% 2PT)
Jerron Granberry (6'4, 215, So.) 8.0 0.27 30.0 MPG, 8.0 PPG (29.2% FG), 3.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 2.3 TOPG
Brad Haugabrook (6'0, 185, Sr.) 6.9 0.26 26.7 MPG, 5.0 PPG (41.2% FG), 3.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.7 TOPG
Brian Holmes (6'1, 180, Fr.) 4.3 0.25 17.0 MPG, 5.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.0 APG, 2.7 TOPG
Matt Sauey (6'7, 205, Jr.) 2.1 0.11 19.3 MPG, 3.7 PPG, 2.0 RPG
Kyle Groothuis (6'7, 215, Sr.) 0.4 0.06 7.0 MPG, 1.3 PPG, 1.0 RPG
David Jeune (6'6, 210, So.) -2.3 -0.26 8.7 MPG, 0.7 PPG, 1.7 RPG
Jimmy Williams (6'4, 215, Jr.) -5.3 -0.28 19.0 MPG, 0.7 PPG (10.0% FG!), 2.7 RPG, 1.7 APG, 2.7 TOPG

* AdjGS = a take-off of the Game Score metric (definition here) accepted by a lot of basketball stat nerds.  It redistributes a team's points based not only on points scored, but also by giving credit for assists, rebounds (offensive & defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and fouls.  It is a stat intended to determine who had the biggest overall impact on the game itself, instead of just how many balls a player put through a basket.

  • First things first: Matt Sauey is, by default, my all-time favorite North Florida basketball player.  Why?  Because his name automatically reminded me of this guy.
  • This team is all about Andres Diaz.  UNF's only player over 215, he is averaging almost a point a minute with the AdjGS formula.  He is averaging over three offensive rebounds per game, he has shot 23-for-35 from the field, and he has managed five steals as well.  Sure, he's got limitations -- he's 3-for-9 from the free throw line and has committed ten fouls -- but this sophomore has quite a bit going for him.  Stop him, and you rout North Florida.
  • Another encouraging piece for the future: Charles McCroy.  He is packing quite a punch into his 16 minutes per game.  His offensive rebound rate (13%) is the same as Diaz', and he can score from inside and outside.  Diaz, McCroy and super-skinny Parker Smith are the Ospreys' main scoring threats (the %Shoot for all three are over 50%).
  • So ... maybe Jimmy Williams is a great on-ball defender or something?  Great at setting picks?  Whatever he's done to earn 19 minutes per game has not translated to the box score.  He has put together the rare "10% shooting with three turnovers per game" combination so far, which is ... less than impressive.
  • Looking at the minutes distribution, North Florida goes with a four-guard lineup quite a bit.  And with only a couple of true scoring threats, they do not match up too strong with Mizzou in this regard.

Keys to the Game

  1. Control Diaz.  One thing that has Mizzou fans excited about this year's team is that they've got more depth of size, with both Steve Moore and Ricardo Ratliffe big and strong enough to avoid getting pushed around by bulls like Diaz.  If they are able to both stand up to him and potentially draw some fouls, UNF is not going to have much of a chance.  He has been incredibly successful considering the level of opponent so far, and he's coming off of his best performance -- a 23-point (10-for-13 shooting), 11-board performance against Wyoming -- and he is essential to UNF's success.

  2. Make Your Open Shots.  We got a glimpse of Mizzou's possible Achilles Heel Thursday night, and it looked a lot like ... last year's Achilles Heel.  If defenses can pack in their defense to make Mizzou shoot over the top, and if Mizzou doesn't make those shots with any regularity, then they are quite simply going to struggle offensively.  Players like Kim English, Marcus Denmon and Mike Dixon are the epitome of streak-shooters -- if they are on, it's great.  If not, Mizzou still needs a Plan B.

  3. Show Up.  Mizzou sort of did this Thursday night ... eventually.  Thank goodness for Steeeeeeeeeeeve Moore, eh?  Otherwise Mizzou might have been down 10 at halftime.

Prediction

At a 72-possession pace, Mizzou probably wins somewhere in the neighborhood of 84-61.  If Diaz gets in foul trouble, it quickly goes to more like 90-55.  But if Mizzou still can't shoot, then ... nevermind.  They'll shoot well.  They just will.

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