Well Mizzou's done it, they've made history! This iteration of our Missouri Tigers has the longest basketball losing streak in school history. I guess if you're going to be bad, you might as well be historically bad. Speaking of bad, the Gators of Florida are coming to town and they are not having a good season either, by theirs or anyone's standards. With the Gators coming in wounded, does Mizzou have a shot?
Presenting the Florida Gators
location: Gainesville, Florida
By HHKB Chris: This season we've played dogs, cats, human-dogs, old timey humans, tides of red/elephants, tigers, more tigers, more tigers, but we've not seen our reptilian friends to date. Today we get our shot at taking out the aquatic mascot of the SEC and boy are Florida's stupid!
Florida has two mascots in plush, Albert E. Gator and Alberta Gator. Get it? They riffed off the word alligator. Man, that's HILLARIOUS! If there's one thing you should take from this preview series it's that mascot deciders in the SEC love a good pun and love being lazy. I mean, this isn't even trying! Interestingly, some fans decided on Florida's mascot to make money and because (again with the lazy meme) Florida officials, just said "the hell with it" let's keep it.
Now this is silly, but what's even sillier is that while Albert and Alberta can go to football games together to cheer, they are NOT allowed at each other's gender based basketball games. So you won't see Albert at the ladies games or Alberta at the men's games. Apparently it's still a middle school dance down in Florida, boys on one side, girls on the other.
While State has the cowbell, and the Cocks of SC have their sand storm and apparently this Third down for what isn't going away at UT, Florida has their gator chomp. They do this when things are happening in a good way. Why am I referencing this? Well because we do it better!
That's it, that's the only reason I mention it...happier, sunnier, warmer times...
Anyway, that's enough about their silly mascots that can't occupy the same space when it comes to basketball at the same time. Let's talk about the people that have gotten educations there and see what they have to say for themselves.
Stephen Root is a Gator! That's exciting, he's funny, liked wood on Seinfeld and had a mail order bride in the film Dodgeball, but what I find most interesting is that his first film foray was in Crocodile Dundee 2. I bet that was tough, being a part of the popular film franchise that kind of looks like your animal mascot, but just isn't all the way there. Sad Stephen, let it go, college was a while ago.
Another bona fide actress attending the Florida school of multiple mascots, Faye Dunaway! She's been in a ton of stuff, and I bet a good amount of our father's thought she was the bees knees back in the day. Her list of work is quite long but what stood out was this movie about hangers that my mother made me watch when I was a young kid. Her character flips her sh*t when she finds her kids clothes on wire hangers, because you know, kids choose their hangers.
Finally Marco Rubio, Senator from the state went to Florida. And it doesn't matter what he does for the rest of his life, he'll be known for his need for water 10 seconds into his response to the 2013 State of the Union. I don't care if he becomes president of the world and kills some aliens on another world, he's going to be thirsty water guy. Sorry Marco, that's the way it is!
It's a Tuesday night game with an 8:00 PM Central tip off so you know you can make it to downtown Columbia and be in your seat in plenty of time for the game. I know you can, we all know you can, so stop kidding yourself and don't tell me you can't. Don't bother going out beforehand, save it for the post game celebration! And if you are going out, I suggest hitting up Snappers. I don't believe they have food but the beer is great, and cheap, plus there's a juke box where if you play only 90s R&B for an hour straight you can get some weird expressions. PLAY PONY BY GINUWINE!
If you can't make the game, no worries, it's on ESPN, so sit back, grab a drink and a friend and let's M-I-Z all over the Gators.
About Their Basketball Team
By Sam Snelling: Just about everyone thought Florida was going to be pretty good this year. They had major contributors Michael Frazier II and Dorian Finney-Smith back from a team that went to the Final Four. Kasey Hill was a former McDonalds All-American who was ready to take the helm over at point guard, Chris Walker was a potential lottery pick, Devin Robinson and Chris Chiozza were highly sought after freshmen, Alex Murphy transferred in from Duke... the roster was just laden with talent. And then, the season happened.
In the second game of the season, Miami (FL) broke Florida's nearly two year old home winning streak in heartbreaking fashion. They then struggled through a tough non-conference schedule with both injuries and wins and entered conference play 7-6. The Gators then won 3 in a row and were seeming to right the ship, before going on to lose 7 of their next 9 games. And more injuries and suspensions have followed. As it stands right now, the Gators are 6-8 in conference, 13-14 overall, and yet somehow still ranked 35th in KenPom.
The good news for Mizzou is that 40% of the Gators scoring will not being playing in the game in Columbia. Frazier II is being held out again due to a badly sprained ankle, and Finney-Smith is being held out for a violation of team rules. After those two the top scorer for the Gators is Eli Carter at 8.9 ppg. Carter is a small wing who can create his own shot if he needs to. Hill is a player that hasn't played up to his potential along with Walker who has been pretty low impact.
Now for a closer look at their basketball team, let's chat with somebody who knows them best...
Q&A With ALLIGATOR ARMY
Thank you and intro paragraph
RockMNation: Things haven't really gone according to plan in Gainesville this year. What seems to be the biggest issue with the Gators when it comes to closing out games?
Trevor Sikkema: The biggest issue for Florida was losing so many solidified pieces from last season. It's a rarity in college basketball to have a team contend for a national championship with four seniors starting, especially when none are drafted. The way they did that was becoming fantastic team (in the togetherness sense). This season, those leadership roles aren't there; neither are the execution roles. You have Michael Frazier II who's trying to lead this team from his experience, but isn't free to be the shooter he was last season, Dorian Finney-Smith, who's a streaky scorer himself, and no go-to paint presence or way to control the pace of play. Bundle that all together with a point guard who can't shoot (Kasey Hill), THEN add Florida shooting 65 percent from the free throw line and you have their late-game woes.
RMN: What do you think is the solution for the Gators moving forward? Will Donovan be able to get things turned around?
Sikkema: Here's the thing about getting it turned around. Will Billy Donovan figure it out? Well, he has. The answer just isn't the one Gators fans like to hear. I think Donovan is a brilliant coach, one who can find answers when no one else can seem to, but that doesn't mean there's always an answer to find. With this roster, at this point in their careers, I don't think there's an overall answer to be found in terms of wins and losses. Billy's knows his team is playing for adversity, character and overall player growth at this point. He ain't thinkin' March Maddness -- probably hasn't for a while.
RMN: Who are the players you think Missouri fans need to know about and what do they do so well that makes them a tough matchup?
Sikkema: With all that "no hope" talk I just typed, there is some nice talent on this team, but of course, the top two won't be suiting up to show it. With SG Frazier and F Finney-Smith out, Florida's top threats are SF Devin Robinson and SG Eli Carter. Robinson's come on as of late, but his freshman mistakes like unsure defense or poor shot selection sometimes leaves him on the end of the bench for long stretches of time. Robinson is long. He's a 6'8" guy who can get up and fly as well as step out and shoot the three. He's raw potential, but if he's on, he's a tough matchup. For Carter to be a tough matchup he has to heat up. He has a shooter's stroke, but like his numbers say, he's been off so far this year.
RMN: Missouri has obviously had their struggles this year, what do you think is going to be the Gators toughest matchup as they head to Columbia?
Sikkema: When you say toughest matchup, is bad luck an option? But honestly, Missouri just needs to hit their open shots -- and they will have open shots. If Mizzou can force Jon Horford into foul trouble, there's not much of a presence in the paint when it comes to offense. Florida doesn't have players who can establish any kind of pace. If the Tigers can get Williams III or even Grant any kind of post consistency, Florida doesn't really have an answer for that.
RMN: Last, how do you see this game playing out? And what do you think the final score will be?
Sikkema: I'm not expecting the best examples of basketball to be on display for this one. It would not shock me at all if the game ended with both teams scoring less than 50, but I'll still take Florida 55-51.
Again, thanks to Trevor for answering our questions, please take the time to give him a follow for a great resource on all things Florida Gators.
So the Gators come into Columbia limping a bit, missing their top two scorers, and with not a lot to play for. That means Missouri has a chance, right? Um... sure! The reality is that Florida is still Florida. They've had some tough breaks and don't have the record we're used to seeing, but the Gators are still a tough team who hasn't really lost any bad games. They dropped a game to Florida State (100 in KenPom) on a weird own goal tip in by Jacob Kurtz, but next to that was a loss to 62nd ranked UConn. This has a chance to play similar to Vanderbilt if Mizzou isn't careful (although Florida doesn't have the scoring that Vandy had).
Florida loses their only two shooters from beyond the 3-point line who hit more than 30% of their shots. And while Mizzou hasn't exactly been blazing the nets lately, they only have two players (Jakeenan Gant and Deuce Bello) who are below the 30% mark. If the Tigers can get a few outside jumpshots to fall, they'll be in very good shape to stick with the Gators because even if they're open, Florida will have a tough time knocking them down.
2) Fight on the glass
A game after getting absolutely crushed on the glass, the Tigers find themselves going against a decent, but not great rebounding team. Florida has some good size, and they're often in good position, but Missouri will have to find a way to eclipse a 30% offensive rebound rate, and keep Florida from hitting that number in order to be in the game. For some context, Vanderbilt rebounded 47% of their missed shots on offense.
3) Force Tough Shots
Trying to reclaim a bit of the season the Tigers really need to have a game where they buckle down on defense. They haven't held an opponent below 60 points since they faced Tennessee, and with shooting numbers like you see above, it's entirely possible for Mizzou to do that this game. Florida isn't littered with great scorers, but they are well coached. Florida will likely have several open shots during the game because of how well coached they are. The problem is they don't have a ton of guys to knock them down. So its imperative that we're giving them the shots that we want them to take, and not really in that area above where it says 60%.
I feel like last week was a bit of a trap game for Mizzou fans. Vandy is better than they've shown, and obviously were looking to lay the hammer down on somebody after a lot of tough breaks. In some ways, this Florida game sets up a little that way as well. The only thing I see as a ray of light for this game is that Florida does not score the ball well. They don't hit the 70 point mark easily, and now they'll be playing without the top two scorers. And to top that off, when Mizzou has things going well, and they are playing with confidence, they look more like a top 100 team than the 211 that they currently rank.
In order for Mizzou to win this game they're going to have to defend their home court like they've shown the ability to do in some games this year. More LSU & Arkansas and less Mississippi & Texas A&M. What happened against LSU and Arkansas that didn't against Ole Miss and A&M? The Tigers shot about 40% from 3 and JW3 averaged 18 & 10 in the good games, and in the bad games he averaged 10 & 6, and Mizzou shot 21% in the bad games. The recipe is pretty simple. JW3 has to play well, and they have to shoot well... and that's just to be in the game.
Do I think they'll be in the game? Frankly? Yes. Do I think they'll win? No, no I don't. I'd love to see this team win, as I think it would do so much for so many in and around the program to get off this ridiculous slide, but it's going to be nearly impossible to do against a Donovan coached team. His offense is precision, and with a leaky defense I think they'll find enough easy baskets to win the game, let's say a final score of: Florida 63, Missouri 56. (I just realized that's what KenPom projected... eh, I'm sticking with it).
As usual, trifecta picks and predictions in the comments. My trifecta will be JW3, Shams and Teki.