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Missouri Hoops Preview: Florida

Florida comes limping into Columbia, Mo., desperate to avoid losses that could put them on the wrong side of the bubble.

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma State at Florida Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Anyone got a free afternoon? Inquiring seats at Mizzou Arena want to know!

Ahead of the winter storm that’s due to blitz Missouri this week, Mizzou and Florida are knocking their match up into the afternoon, desperate to avoid any more schedule mishaps for the league office to settle. It should create something of an eerie atmosphere at Mizzou Arena — hopefully whoever is able to show up can create something memorable.

It’s been something of a disappointing season for Mike White and the Gators, who are enduring their worst year (by KenPom) under White. Let’s be honest, though, if your worst result in seven years is 43rd, you’d better be counting your blessings. The Gators are enduring something of a depth crisis right now, especially in the front court. We’ll get into it more below, but they’re missing their two tallest players, one of whom is a preseason All SEC selection. White has amassed a senior-laden squad, so there’s no true leadership gap, but the Gators have missed Colin Castleton’s production — along with the back up numbers that Jason Jitoboh provides.

Even without them, however, Florida is a team that’s right in the mix for a March Madness bid. Joe Lunardi currently has them pegged as one of the “Last Four In,” a position they’ll have every chance to improve. They’ve got a few juicy home match ups — Auburn, Arkansas and Kentucky — with a bit of a softer road schedule outside of a trip to Lexington. They’ll have to emerge unscathed from the next week, where they’ll take on three of the bottom four in Missouri, Ole Miss and Georgia.

As odd as it sounds, Missouri may be the toughest of the trio. The Tigers are on a skid right now but have been an extremely tough out in Columbia, neutralizing the Tide and playing Texas A&M and Auburn to one-possession games. A loss wouldn’t tank the Gators’ chances of playing in March, but it would certainly mean they’d need to take one of tougher games in late February. If they can win out against their “inferior” opponents, they may be able to coast on their name alone.

The Scout

The Starters

Position Missouri (8-12) Florida (13-8)
Position Missouri (8-12) Florida (13-8)
PG Jarron Coleman (Jr., 6'5", 210) Tyree Appleby (Sr., 6'1", 163)
CG Javon Pickett (Sr., 6'5", 215) Brandon McKissic (Sr., 6'3", 185)
WING DaJuan Gordon (Jr., 6'3", 190) Phlandrous Fleming (Sr., 6'5", 205)
PF Kobe Brown (Jr., 6'8", 250) Kowacie Reeves (Fr., 6'6", 182)
POST Trevon Brazile (Fr., 6'9", 215) Anthony Duruji (Sr., 6'7", 209)

Note: These starting lineups are projected.

Players to Watch

NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma State at Florida Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

Florida announced on Monday that it senior Colin Castleton will miss another game due to a lingering shoulder injury. It’s a big blow to the Gators, who rely on his multi-faceted output.

Still, they’ve got options all over the floor, most of whom are also seniors. In fact, the top five minutes-getters (six if you count Castleton) are all seniors. Tyree Appleby is a do-it-all point guard who’s equally skilled at facilitating for others and getting his own shot as well as creating turnovers on the other end. He prefers getting to the rim, but his aggressiveness can lead to some haphazardness with the ball. Myreon Jones operates in the same defensive mold without much of the offensive production — but he gets about the same amount of minutes. Remember Brandon McKissic, the UMKC transfer who almost came to Mizzou? He’s... struggling to say the least. His true shooting percentage has cratered by almost 15 points, and many of his other meaningful percentages (assists, free throws, three-point shooting) have dropped noticeably. Still, he’s logging around three steals per 40 minutes and playing good defense.

Phlandrous Fleming mans the wing and can play a little bigger if needed. Like many of the team’s leaders, he’s a defensive creator without much dynamic production on the offensive end. He is, however, skilled at drawing fouls near the rim. Anthony Duruji rounds out the sextet of seniors at the combo forward position, where he’s the team’s most dangerous offensive weapon. He’s the most consistent and accurate three-point shooter at 36.4 percent, but he’s most effective down low and at the line (67.4 and 73.1, respectively.)

Role Players

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Florida Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

More injury problems are plaguing Mike White’s bench, with junior big man Jason Jitoboh out for the season with an eye injury. Without either, the tallest reserve big is 6’9” sophomore Tuongthach Gatkek, who’s only getting spot minutes at this point as a foul-prone rim protector. White prefers to go smaller at this point, going to Kowacie Reeves or, in rarer cases as of late, CJ Felder. Reeves is a promising shooter for a freshman, but doesn’t contribute enough defensively or on the boards to get minutes over the starters. Felder’s an extremely strong shooter off the bench — his true shooting percentage only ranks below Duruji’s — but he too is a bit one-dimensional at this point.

Freshman Elijah Kennedy and sophomore Niels Lane have both struggled to gain traction, though they’re seeing a slight uptick in minutes due to necessity. Neither has contributed a substantial amount in their few minutes.

When Missouri has the ball...

Missouri Offense vs. Florida Defense

Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Missouri 102.3 (183) 17.6 (204) 46.3 (303) 21.5 (328) 32.1 (61) 29.4 (201) 27.6 (347) 48.8 (215) 72 (155) 9.2 (181) 10.5 (293)
Florida 96.1 (58) 18.3 (329) 48.6 (127) 23.2 (22) 31.4 (290) 29.7 (171) 31.4 (81) 49.2 (158) 67 (32) 14.9 (18) 13.7 (8)
NCAA Basketball: Missouri at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Maximize the number of possessions

Florida’s defense is 58th by KenPom’s adjusted efficiency — not amazing, but certainly well above-average. The somewhat surprising thing is how the Gators measure out better than their overall ranking in most categories, namely free throw (32nd), turnover (22nd), block (18th) and steal (8th) percentages. The one thing the Gators don’t do well is attack the defensive glass — they rank 290th in the country. So the Gator M.O. is generate turnovers before the shot goes up, because who knows how many chances the other team will get. For Missouri to score enough, they’ll need to avoid copious amounts of turnovers (a regular amount will be fine) and be sure to hit Florida where they’re vulnerable — on the offensive glass.

When Florida has the ball...

Florida Offense vs. Missouri Defense

Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Team Adj. Eff. Poss. Length eFG% TO% OR% FTA/FGA 3P% 2P% FT% Blk% Stl%
Florida 110.9 (43) 16.8 (84) 49.7 (185) 19.3 (213) 33.9 (30) 37.4 (24) 29.9 (318) 54 (48) 72 (158) 10.7 (296) 11.6 (340)
Missouri 100.1 (130) 17.5 (194) 50.6 (212) 18.2 (206) 31.4 (289) 31.5 (217) 34.6 (234) 49.9 (179) 67.4 (39) 11.4 (80) 9.4 (176)
NCAA Basketball: Oklahoma State at Florida Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports

What to Watch | Protect the paint

Despite its relative lack of size, Florida’s offense thrives down low — they rank in the top 50 teams in the country in two-point percentage, offensive rebounding and free throw per field goal attempts. But they seem confusingly determined to lean away from those strengths. They shoot a paltry 29.9 percent from deep, yet take the 29th most three-pointers per field goal attempt in the country. Not that Missouri will have to do too much to make this happen, but they might be best served by packing the paint and forcing the Gators into their own bad habits. If the shots aren’t falling, Missouri can severely hamper Florida’s scoring output.

KenPom predicts...

Florida 70, Missouri 65 | KenPom gives Missouri about a one in three chance to pull out a win over Florida, who is squarely on the bubble and can’t afford losses like this one. That the game will be played in essentially a neutral setting isn’t ideal for the Tigers, who have tended to play better in front of the small but raucous Mizzou Arena crowds.

The Gators are limping a bit, however, forced to play smaller than they’d like to. That may be enough to get Missouri back into the win column one week after a near-miss against Auburn solidified the disappointing feelings a decent SEC start had been staving off.