Know your pretty big rematch: Florida

Al Messerschmidt

LEAVE YOUR TRIFECTA PICKS IN COMMENTS.

That Florida is still just fifth in the AP poll proves that we still have no idea how to judge a team for strength of schedule. With a Top 50 strength of schedule on paper (despite the SEC) and an average margin of victory of +21.7, the Gators are stuck at fifth in the poll, behind teams like Gonzaga (sixth in Pomeroy's rankings), Miami (10th) and Michigan State (12th), because they have had to play teams like Mississippi State, South Carolina and Auburn in conference play. Never mind that they beat Florida State by 35, Marquette by 33, Missouri by 31, Middle Tennessee (an extremely strong mid-major this year) by 21, Wisconsin by 18, Kentucky by 17 and Ole Miss by 14. They've played some pretty bad teams in conference play, and they had the audacity to lose at Arkansas (where almost nobody wins), therefore their glass ceiling is evidently lower than Gonzaga's.

Florida is the best team in the country. The only other team with even a possible claim to that title, in my eyes, is Indiana. The Gators are absurdly efficient on offense and vicious on defense. After what happened in Gainesville on January 19, Missouri fans should know this well. They have been bitten hard by the injury bug, and because of that they only go seven-deep at the moment (they are particularly thin in the post); plus, Missouri really has put up results comparable to Florida's in recent games -- Mizzou beat Ole Miss at home by 19, and Florida beat them by 14; Mizzou beat Mississippi State in Starkville by 42, and Florida won by 35; Mizzou lost to Arkansas in Fayetteville by two, and Florida lost by 11. This is exactly the right time for Mizzou to host the Gators, but a win tonight will absolutely require an effort similar to, or exceeding, the Tigers' recent output.

Florida Gators Since Last Time (9-1)


Florida
Opp.
Pace (No. of Possessions)
62.4
Points Per Possession (PPP)
1.21 0.86
Points Per Shot (PPS)
1.36 1.06
2-PT FG% 58.5% 40.5%
3-PT FG% 42.2% 32.5%
FT% 66.7% 69.2%
True Shooting % 62.0% 47.0%




Florida Opp.
Assists/Gm 19.0 10.0
Steals/Gm 8.0 6.8
Turnovers/Gm 11.6 15.0
Ball Control Index (BCI)
(Assists + Steals) / TO
2.33 1.12




Florida Opp.
Expected Off. Rebounds/Gm 9.3 11.1
Offensive Rebounds/Gm 9.3 9.2
Difference +0.0 -1.9

The efficiency on this team is just silly. In conference play, against a handful of decent teams (this sample includes games versus Missouri, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Kentucky with Nerlens Noel), Florida's offense is averaging what Missouri averages versus cupcakes on a per-possession basis. Meanwhile, the Gators are holding opponents to the same iffy shooting and monster turnover numbers. There are few advantages for Mizzou to derive here, but if the Tigers can split the FG% battle and win on the boards, they will give themselves a chance. The first time around, they very, very much could not.

Ken Pomeroy Stats

UF Offense vs MU Defense Ranks

UF Offense MU Defense Advantage
Efficiency 2 66 UF
Effective FG% 2 59 UF
Turnover % 72 296 UF big
Off. Reb. % 58 31 MU
FTA/FGA 316 29 MU big
MU Offense vs UF Defense Ranks

MU Offense UF Defense Advantage
Efficiency 17 2 Push
Effective FG% 91 5 UF
Turnover % 105 29 UF
Off. Reb. % 10 18 Push
FTA/FGA 203 57 UF big

Where the Gators are weakest

Again, this team has no depth whatsoever (291st in Bench Minutes), and with a recent injury to backup big man Will Yeguete, there are only two players bigger than Jabari Brown in the rotation. This team has basically turned into last year's Mizzou squad, only with better FG% defense.

Beyond the depth issues, there is another factor at play here: Florida has only played in three games decided by fewer than 13 points, and the Gators are 0-3 in those contests. There's kind of a 1980 USSR Hockey thing going on here -- close-game experience can matter, and when you blow everybody out, you almost forget that sometimes teams fight back. The longer Mizzou keeps the game close, the better the Tigers' chances get. (Not that Mizzou has exactly fared well down the stretch in close games, but you know what I'm saying.) Florida has also only played one Top 75 team on the road (Arkansas) and lost. This is the ultimate small sample size factor here -- we don't know that Florida can't win close games or take out a good team on the road; we just know the Gators haven't yet done so -- but it's still a potential factor until Florida proves otherwise.

Other potential things working in Mizzou's favor: Florida doesn't draw fouls (316th in FTA/FGA) and doesn't shoot FTs amazingly well (154th in FT%). The Gators are very reliant on the 3-point shot (24th in 3PA/FGA), and while they have been tremendous at making them, you don't always make them. It is a high-variability way to go through life. (Again, just ask last year's Missouri squad.) They are also vulnerable to steals, but that isn't much of a concern versus Missouri.

Where they are best

They are pretty much great in every other department. They shoot ridiculously well (second in 2PT%, 13th in 3PT%), they prevent you from getting good shots (second in Def. 2PT%, 58th in Def. 3PT%), they pass well (44th in Assists Per FG Made, 72nd in Off. TO%), and they are very well-seasoned (30th in Experience). Depth and size are issues; virtually everything else is a strength.

Florida Since Last Time

  • Wins (Team Rank is from KenPom.com)
    No. 24 Missouri (83-52)
    No. 29 Kentucky (69-52)
    No. 41 Ole Miss (78-64)
    at No. 114 Georgia (64-47)
    at No. 150 Auburn (83-52)
    No. 207 South Carolina (75-36)
    at No. 242 Mississippi State (82-47)
    No. 242 Mississippi State (83-58)
  • Losses
    at No. 69 Arkansas (69-80)

A bad start doomed them in Fayetteville, and the pieces have been shuffled because of injury, but otherwise Florida has been mostly the same team since the Missouri game as it was before (and during) that game. This is a really good team.

Florida Player Stats Since Last Time

Player AdjGS*/Gm GmSc/Min Line
Erik Murphy (6'10, 238, Sr.) 12.7 0.47 26.8 MPG, 13.6 PPG (57% 2PT, 57% 3PT, 92% FT), 5.2 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.9 TOPG, 2.6 PFPG
Scottie Wilbekin (6'2, 176, Jr.) 11.6 0.35 33.0 MPG, 10.9 PPG (57% 2PT, 36% 3PT, 75% FT), 6.4 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 2.4 TOPG
Kenny Boynton (6'2, 190, Sr.) 11.5 0.36 32.3 MPG, 12.0 PPG (58% 2PT, 32% 3PT, 80% FT), 4.3 APG, 2.3 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 1.2 TOPG
Patric Young (6'9, 249, Jr.) 11.1 0.42 26.5 MPG, 9.6 PPG (62% 2PT, 55% FT), 7.1 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 1.2 SPG, 1.6 TOPG
Mike Rosario (6'3, 183, Sr.) 11.1 0.37 29.6 MPG, 13.6 PPG (54% 2PT, 38% 3PT, 87% FT), 2.8 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.2 TOPG
Michael Frazier II (6'4, 200, Fr.) 7.0 0.33 21.0 MPG, 7.1 PPG (33% 2PT, 60% 3PT, 100% FT), 3.8 RPG
Casey Prather (6'6, 208, Jr.) 4.7 0.33 14.3 MPG, 5.3 PPG (68% 2PT, 25% FT), 2.3 RPG, 1.2 APG, 2.5 PFPG

* 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%: Rosario (24%), Murphy (22%), Boynton (21%)
  • Highest Floor%: Wilbekin (46%), Murphy (45%), Young (44%)
  • Highest %Pass: Wilbekin (75%), Boynton (65%), Prather (53%)
  • Highest %Shoot: Murphy (40%), Young (38%), Frazier (36%)
  • Highest %Fouled: Young (23%), Prather (12%), Murphy (7%)
  • Highest %T/O: Young (10%), Murphy (9%), Frazier (9%)
  • The evenness on this team is just silly. This team shares the ball, and the glory, exactly the way Dean Smith always desired in his glory days ... though really, this team shares the glory the way every coach, ever, has desired.

Keys to the Game

  1. Either take Murphy out, or wear Murphy out. Florida has overcome size issues just fine -- the Gators were, after all, thumping Kentucky even before Nerlens Noel went down -- but Erik Murphy is a little foul-prone, and Missouri does have better depth on the interior. If Mizzou could either draw a couple of early fouls on Murphy (perhaps with foul magnet Alex Oriakhi?) or simply go about physically punishing him as much as possible, it would help the cause dramatically. If he is able to play upwards of 30 minutes, and if he has plenty of legs for his jumper, he is devastating.

  2. The glass. It is really, really difficult to win the FG% battle versus Florida. But if you can win on the glass, earning a few second-chance opportunities on one end while preventing the same (after rare misses) on the other, you can make up that difference. Mizzou was -8 in terms of expected rebounds the first time these two teams played. You will get blown out by Florida every time if you can't compete on the glass ... especially considering Florida's ball-handling advantage.

  3. Flipadelphia. This is the key to pretty much every game, isn't it? Phil Pressey had perhaps the worst game of his career in Missouri's January trip to Gainesville: two points on 1-for-7 shooting, with 10 turnovers. He did have six assists (somewhat impressive considering Mizzou players not named Pressey made just 15 shots) and two steals, but let's just say that Flip will have to do just a little better than 14% shooting with a 0.8 BCI.

    Meanwhile, Pressey's counterpart Scottie Wilbekin (who might be the most underrated player in the country at this point) scored 13 points on 5-for-6 shooting, with 10 assists, three steals and three turnovers. When Missouri loses, opposing point guards typically go off. Compare the Flip and Wilbekin stat lines, and you'll probably figure out who won.

Prediction

This isn't a must-win game in terms of Mizzou's NCAA Tournament situation -- the Tigers aren't that far from the bubble's cut-off, bu they are still safe at the moment -- but a win tonight would still mean some pretty awesome things. First, it would mean that Missouri's chances of something better than an 8-seed are still decent. Plus, it would mean that Mizzou's recent level of mostly outstanding play has continued. So um, let's try that. Pomeroy projects a 73-62 Florida win, and I'm inclined to agree to an extent -- we'll say Florida 76, Mizzou 69 -- but this game is within Mizzou's grasp, and a successful revenge attempt would be pretty awesome right about now.

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