Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Florida Scouting Report

Florida came into the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed in the field and winners of 26 straight games. The Gators have not lost a game since early December. In that span, they beat Kentucky three times and Tennessee twice, both wins which look far more impressive now than they did during the regular season. After making the last three Elite Eights, they are the favorites to cut down the nets in Dallas this time around.

Florida starts 4 seniors and goes 8-9 deep with quality players. They have NBA-caliber athletes at every position - for all the hype Kentucky's players got this season, they couldn't just overwhelm Florida athletically. If anything, Florida was more athletic than them. This is as good a team as Billy Donovan has had since the Joakim Noah - Al Horford days.

Nevertheless, they are beatable. They aren't great outside shooting team, they don't have a ton of shot-creators and their offense can stagnate in the half-court. They even got a game from their 16 seed (Albany) whom they only beat by 12 points. If Florida is the favorite, you can see why people are saying there isn't a dominant team in college basketball this season.


PG - Scottie Wilbekin (6'2 175) - The SEC POY and the engine of the Florida machine. Wilbekin is their only indispensable player - he's their best playmaker, one of their best scorers and one of their only three-point shooters. If you can get him struggling or get him in foul trouble, the Florida offense will not be nearly as smooth.

SG - Michael Frazier (6'4 200) - Florida's designated zone-buster - athletic guard but still fairly one-dimensional. Contest his shots and make him put the ball on the floor - he's the inverse of most of the Florida perimeter players who can attack the basket but can't shoot.

SF - Casey Prather (6'6 210) - A mega-athlete who can attack the rim, crash the boards and get out in transition. Can't and won't shoot, so as long as you can stay in front of him, he's not going to kill you. 

PF - Will Yeguete (6'8 230) - An athletic senior role player - a description you can give to a lot of their roster. Yeguete is a scrappy defender who doesn't extend himself on offense. Donovan usually pulls him pretty quickly in favor of Dorian Finney-Smith.

C - Patric Young (6'9 240) - If Young is any indication, Donovan's player development program consists of having guys hit the weights for four years. He's huge and a little bulky - he has a game like a guy who enjoys lifting more than playing basketball. As long as you have the raw strength to keep him from bullying you (and few college big men do), it's not hard to limit him offensively.

Key Reserves:

Kasey Hill - 6'1 180 - A McDonald's All-American PG whose come along nicely over the course of his freshman season. Very fast player with the ability to get to the rim and create shots, but doesn't shoot from the perimeter and can be overwhelmed by size.

Dorian Finney-Smith - 6'8 215 - A transfer from Virginia Tech, DFS is basically a sixth starter. He's one of the glue pieces that connects the roster together. He can defend all three frontcourt positions at the college level and he can shoot 3's - he adds to their offense without taking away anything from their defense. They are at their best when DFS is making 3's.

Devon Walker - 6'6 195 - Another athlete who doesn't shoot 3's well. He didn't play much in their second-round win over Pittsburgh - he's not adding a lot to the table that their older players don't already do.

Chris Walker - 6'10 225 - Freak athlete who was ineligible for the first half of the season. He gives them a few minutes behind Young, but he's probably a year away from being a consistent player. Just doesn't have a ton of experience with the college game or his teammates.

Florida is a defensive-minded team that wants to turn over the opposition and get the game going up-and-down, where their athleticism is magnified and their lack of shooting is minimized. The strategy against them is simple - take care of the ball, pack the paint and make them beat you over the top in the half-court. To do it, you need the athletes to keep up with them and the skill to handle their ball pressure. 

UCLA runs a lot of zone and you can bet there will be a huge helping of it on Thursday. The zone negates a lot of Florida's ball screening and forces them out of their comfort zone - the big men have to make plays out of the high post and their guards have to spot up on the perimeter. However, the one weakness of the zone is the defensive glass and Patric Young could probably bench both of the Wear Twins.

If UCLA can force long shots and rebound the ball, they can run it back at Florida before they have a chance to set their defense. You want to get easy points on the Gators, because they are so good at squeezing you do to death in the half-court. That's what happened to Pittsburgh in the second round, where they put up only 45 points.

The big difference is that UCLA has a lot more options. With Kyle Anderson running point, the Bruins can afford to play a monster 2-SG back-court with Norman Powell (6'4 215) and Jordan Adams (6'5 220). Those guys will have a huge size advantage on Wilbekin and Hill - if things slow down, UCLA can invert their offense with their guards posting up and the Wears spotting up on the perimeter.

As long as UCLA can prevent Florida from scoring on broken plays - run-outs and offensive rebounds - they have the edge in size and offensive firepower. This should be a high-level basketball game between two of the best teams left in the field. Whoever wins here will be a huge favorite in the Elite Eight.

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