Know your SEC favorite: Florida Gators

Stacy Revere

Because I'm traveling tomorrow, I'm running this preview today. It is incomplete, as Florida still has one more game to play (at Texas A&M, tonight at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2). Consider this both a place for your trifecta picks and a live thread of sorts for tonight's UF-A&M game.

LEAVE YOUR TRIFECTA PICKS IN COMMENTS.

Florida Gators (12-2)


Florida
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
61.6
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.20 0.84
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.36 1.04
2-PT FG% 55.6% 39.7%
3-PT FG% 37.4% 30.2%
FT% 71.3% 68.1%
True Shooting % 59.1% 45.8%




Florida Opp.
Assists/Gm 14.4 9.8
Steals/Gm 7.4 5.6
Turnovers/Gm 11.4 14.6
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
1.91 1.05




Florida Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 9.7 11.2
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 11.9 9.0
Difference +2.2 -2.2

Damn.

According to both Ken Pomeroy's stats and the naked eye, Florida has the best offense Missouri will face this season and the second-best defense (behind Louisville's). Their per-possession season averages are basically what Missouri did to Nicholls State (Mizzou had 1.20 points per possession, NSU had 0.87), only the Gators have come up with that average while playing teams like Wisconsin, Arizona, Marquette, Kansas State and Florida State. Their strength of schedule has not been incredible, and they have lost to both Arizona (on the road) and Kansas State (in Kansas City); if anything else, the fact that they are 0-2 in games decided by single digits tells you there is extreme benefit in keeping things close for as long as possible. Of course ... they have also only played two games decided by single digits. Only three of their wins have come by fewer than 18 points. They typically don't waste time in sticking their foot on your throat.

And they do it with a sllllllllow pace.

It's one thing that Florida is capable of beating teams like Georgia, Marquette and Florida State by 25 points or more. It's another to build those margins while playing the slowest possible game.

In other words...

...I'm pretty damn impressed with this team, injuries or no injuries. They take good shots (from everywhere on the floor), they prevent you from doing the same, and they rebound the heck out of the ball. Basketball's pretty easy when you can do that. Their 3's weren't falling against Kansas State, and they couldn't stop turning the ball over against Arizona (a game in which they held an 11-point lead midway through the second half), but those aren't season-wide tendencies. This is the best team in the SEC when healthy, and it might be the best when dinged up. And as we'll see below, Florida is pretty damn dinged up right now.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

UF Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

UF Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 2 60 UF
Effective FG% 11 39 UF
Turnover % 58 298 UF big
Off. Reb. % 23 74 UF
FTA/FGA 214 9 MU big
MU Offense vs UF Defense Ranks

MU Offense UF Defense Advantage
Efficiency 20 2 push
Effective FG% 90 7 UF
Turnover % 80 51 UF
Off. Reb. % 6 20 push
FTA/FGA 265 83 UF big

Where the Gators are weakest

It is pretty difficult to single out too many Florida weaknesses, but to some degree, there are a few of them. The Gators really don't draw fouls very well; it typically doesn't hurt them because they are so good at spacing themselves out and creating open shots, but it does prevent some free points here and there. They allow a lot of 3-point attempts, but quite a few of them are of the "well-guarded, but screw it, we're losing big" variety. When they foul, they probably foul guards, meaning their opponents' FT% tends to be pretty good. And they do have a rather thin bench, with only eight primary contributors, most of whom are fighting through some sort of injury at the moment.

But really, if you have these types of weaknesses instead of "they can't make shots" or "they can't buy a rebound," you're probably pretty damn good.

Where they are best

They are experienced (33rd in Pomeroy's Experience measure) with four juniors and three seniors among their primary contributors. They are tall enough (94th in Effective Height). They take good shots (8th in 2PT%, 40th in 3PT%), and they force you to take bad shots (4th in Def. 2PT%, 48th in Def. 3PT%). And they're in the Top 25 in both offensive and defensive rebounding. That's a lot of strength for one paragraph.

Florida's Season to Date

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    No. 12 Wisconsin (74-56)
    No. 39 Marquette (82-49)
    vs. No. 53 Middle Tennessee (66-45)
    at No. 71 Florida State (72-47)
    No. 106 UCF (79-66)
    at No. 130 LSU (74-52)
    vs. No. 157 Air Force (78-61)
    No. 183 Georgia (77-44)
    No. 199 Savannah State (58-40)
    at No. 227 Yale (79-58)
    No. 323 SE Louisiana (82-43)
    No. 338 Alabama State (84-35)
  • Losses
    at No. 15 Arizona (64-65)
    vs. No. 46 Kansas State (61-67)

Average Score, Florida versus Top 50: Florida 70.3, Opponent 59.3 (+11.0)
Average Score, Florida vs. No. 51-150: Florida 72.8, Opponent 52.5 (+20.3)
Average Score, Florida versus No. 151+: Florida 76.3, Opponent 46.8 (+29.5)

Again, they have indeed lost twice, away from home, to Top 50 teams. They have also faced two Top 50 teams in Gainesville and won by an average score of 78.0 to 52.5. So yeah ... maybe Mizzou can get the job done against them with a full-strength Laurence Bowers in Columbia in another month. But they're probably too good for the Tiger team that will face them on Saturday.

Florida Player Stats

Injured, or at least dinged-up, players in italics.

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Kenny Boynton (6'2, 190, Sr.) 12.6 0.39 31.6 MPG, 13.8 PPG (49% 2PT, 36% 3PT, 84% FT), 3.9 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.4 TOPG
Erik Murphy (6'10, 238, Sr.) 11.6 0.47 24.8 MPG, 12.0 PPG (64% 2PT, 44% 3PT, 75% FT), 4.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, 2.9 PFPG, 1.1 TOPG
Patric Young (6'9, 249, Jr.) 11.8 0.44 26.6 MPG, 11.1 PPG (61% 2PT, 50% FT), 6.4 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 1.9 TOPG
Mike Rosario (6'3, 183, Sr.) 10.3 0.36 28.8 MPG, 12.3 PPG (55% 2PT, 35% 3PT, 92% FT), 2.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.9 TOPG
Scottie Wilbekin (6'2, 176, Jr.) 9.6 0.31 30.5 MPG, 8.1 PPG (50% 2PT, 38% 3PT, 63% FT), 4.7 APG, 2.8 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 1.8 TOPG
Casey Prather (6'6, 208, Jr.) 8.1 0.52 15.5 MPG, 6.8 PPG (69% 2PT, 40% 3PT, 89% FT), 3.3 RPG, 1.1 SPG
Will Yeguete (6'7, 240, Jr.) 7.3 0.31 24.0 MPG, 6.5 PPG (57% 2PT, 25% 3PT, 61% FT), 6.6 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.9 TOPG
Michael Frazier II (6'4, 200, Fr.) 5.2 0.29 17.6 MPG, 5.7 PPG (43% 2PT, 43% 3PT, 93% FT), 3.3 RPG, 1.1 APG

* 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.

  • Highest Usage%: Boynton (23%), Young (23%), Rosario (23%)
  • Highest Floor%: Prather (53%), Murphy (47%), Young (44%)
  • Highest %Pass: Wilbekin (74%), Boynton (52%), Frazier (52%)
  • Highest %Shoot: Murphy (42%), Young (42%), Prather (37%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Young (19%), Yeguete (19%), Boynton (10%)
  • Highest %T/O: Yeguete (12%), Young (10%), Prather (8%)

The major thing Missouri has going for it in this one: Despite Bowers' injury, Missouri is the healthier overall team.

Erik Murphy has a broken rib, missed the Yale game and came off the bench against Georgia. Scottie Wilbekin has a broken finger, but hasn’t missed any time because of it. Mike Rosario sat out Saturday’s matchup with LSU with a sprained ankle, but should be making his way back into the lineup this week. Will Yeguete has tendonitis in his knee and is getting further tests to see if there is more damage.

And now Casey Prather joins that list.

The junior swingman suffered a high ankle sprain in Saturday’s win over LSU and will be out for 10-14 days as a result.

That article was from Tuesday. We'll see how this lineup takes shape tonight against A&M. But yeah, of Florida's top seven players, only two (Boynton and Young) are seemingly 100%, and Florida does have to play Missouri fewer than 48 hours after a long road trip. As a result, this is probably the best possible time for Mizzou to head to Gainesville, even without Bowers. It might not make a difference in the end ... but it could.

Keys to the Game

  1. Strength down low. Patric Young is excellent (and healthy) on the interior; he is one of four Gators averaging at least 11 points per game, and he's a solid shot blocker. But of Florida's three primary bigs, he's the only healthy one. Murphy is limited with a rib injury, and Yeguete might or might not play. With Prather out, one should probably expect quite a bit of four-guard play from Florida, which could give the Gators plenty of speed around the perimeter but could lead to an advantage on the inside if Alex Oriakhi is playing well and Mizzou is getting anything from players like Tony Criswell and Stefan Jankovic.

    Actually, let's put it another way: If Mizzou is going to win this game, the Tigers have to create an advantage on the inside. It's hard to do without Laurence Bowers (who, at this time, is still a question mark), but it isn't impossible. And it is an absolute necessity.

  2. Brown & Ross. It is quickly becoming the key to Mizzou games. If Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross can make at least 40-50% of their shots from the field, Mizzou can hang with just about anybody. They made 25% against Ole Miss, however, and Mizzou was lucky to stay within 20 points. If these two are making their jumpers, Phil Pressey has some lovely drive-and-dish options and can quickly start pulling a defense's strings. But if they aren't, then Pressey starts taking more shots from long range, and Ross starts forcing the issue (rarely a good thing), and ... bad things happen. There will likely be a hand in the shooter's face on most jumpers against this Florida team; but Mizzou will have to make those jumpers regardless.

  3. Ball control. Despite a terribly slow pace, Florida is forcing nearly 15 turnovers per game. As we've discussed a few times this season, Mizzou is not a team that is going to create a ball-handling advantage in most games, but in each of the Tigers' three losses, they were absolutely devastated in this category. That simply can't happen if Mizzou is to beat a Top 10 team on the road, even one that is rather dinged up.

Prediction

Ken Pomeroy projects a 74-59 Florida win. That projection will change a bit after tonight's UF-A&M game, obviously, but while I'm semi-optimistic that Missouri can keep it closer than that against this banged up Florida lineup, I'm only so optimistic. We'll say Florida 76, Missouri 65. Prove me wrong, boys.

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