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SEC Fresh Start: Mike Rosario

The Fresh Start series will profile a new coach or eligible transfer who will make an impact in the Southeastern Conference this season. The next player in the series is former Rutgers guard and new addition to the Florida Gators backcourt, Mike Rosario. 

Mike Rosario is accustomed to being the star. He was the star at Rutgers where he averaged 16.2 PPG in his freshman season and 16.7 PPG in his sophomore year.  As much as Rosario was scoring for the Scarlet Knights, though, his team wasn’t winning. Both of his seasons with Rutgers were losing campaigns, including winning a total of only seven Big East games in both years combined. For Rosario, transferring elsewhere represented a chance to win.

Mike Rosario looks so much better in Florida colors.

The Florida Gators represented greener pastures for Rosario. Florida will count on Rosario to be a leader for a team that has Final Four hopes, but that doesn’t mean it will be without scrutiny. Head coach Billy Donovan said, “Rosario is playing every second of practice but what happens when something doesn’t go well? That will be the true test.” The test is already in full effect. Rosario is part of a crowded backcourt with several stars. Returnees Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker both averaged over 14 PPG last year, while newcomer Brad Beal could be the best shooter of the four and figures to start alongside Boynton and Walker. Can Rosario deal with coming off the bench as a role player when he has been so accustomed to having the ball in his hands? Rosario certainly believes he is ready to take on the challenge.

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Mike Rosario Will Fit In Well At Florida

This was a done deal late last week, but rising junior Mike Rosario, recently of Rutgers, is transferring to Florida.  He’ll sit out the mandatory transfer year and start his third season of basketball in the fall of 2011.

Rosario can fill it up, and he'll fit in well at UF. (W. Perlman/Star-Ledger)

Rosario was a highly regarded high school star at the legendary St. Anthony High School in Jersey City, listed as the ninth-ranked shooting guard in the nation as a high school senior and a four-star recruit overall. That promise was definitely realized in his freshman year at Rutgers in 2008-09 as Rosario contributed 16.2 PPG and 3.5 RPG.  But he really came to our attention last summer during the FIBA Under-19 World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand.  Rosario averaged 24.0 PPG playing for the team from Puerto Rico, and while his team finished a respectable fifth place out of 16 teams, Rosario was one of the stars of the tournament.  A game-tough, gritty guard with a knack for scoring, he displayed that knack all over the French U19 team, lighting them up for 54 points and leading PR to a come-from-behind one point victory in that game.  His average of 24.0 PPG led the tournament (which was won by the USA, by the way).

Rosario will fit in well at Florida.  Billy Donovan doesn’t have a quick trigger when it comes to yanking players after they take a bad shot, and Rosario occasionally can put up a questionable one.  Consider, though, that Rosario was asked to carry a lot of the load in the impotent Rutgers offense last season, and his 16.7 PPG last year made him the Knights’ leading scorer, over four points higher than second place Gregory Echenique.  Given a year to gain his bearings in Gainesville, practice with the likes of Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker, and learn Donovan’s way of doing things, Rosario could give Donovan one of the top backcourts in the game in 2011-12.

Budding Star in New Zealand: Rutgers’ Mike Rosario

We’ve been keeping a lazy eye on Team USA’s performance at the Under-19 World Championships in Auckland, New Zealand, this week, and so far, so good.  It’s a nice opportunity to see how some of our better young collegians perform at the international level, in addition to allowing us to evaluate some names to keep an eye on next season.  Several of Team USA’s players – Howard Thompkins from Georgia, Ashton Gibbs from Pitt, Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack from Butler, Seth Curry from Duke, Tyshawn Taylor from Kansas – are known commodities for the average RTC reader, but they haven’t yet gotten the national recognition they’ll receive as they take greater roles on their teams next season (except Curry, of course, who will sit out his transfer year at Duke). 
Learn These Names and Faces for 2009-10

Learn These Names and Faces for 2009-10

As it stands, the Under-19 lads are 4-0 with blowout wins over Iran, France, Egypt and Greece thus far.  Georgia’s 6’9 Howard Thompkins has been a beast on the blocks, averaging 13/5 on 64% shooting in just under 15 mpg, including a 22-pt outburst against the Greeks.  Butler’s Hayward has also been impressive, contributing 10/5 with a well-rounded number of assists, steals and blocks while he’s been on the floor.  In the backcourt, Gibbs, Curry and Mack have logged the most minutes, each adding timely scoring and floor leadership to the team despite not shooting the ball all that well (Gibbs excluded).  The Americans have yet to be tested, and will likely have to wait until its Wednesday game against Lithuania to face some serious competition. 

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Tuesday, however, presents an interesting storyline in that Team USA will face Puerto Rico and the hottest player in the tournament, Rutgers guard and rising sophomore Mike Rosario.  Rosario, a gifted scorer who averaged 16 ppg in college last season, exploded for 54 points in his most recent game against France, scoring 17 in the final quarter as he led his team to a come-from-behind victory, 90-89.  He’s leading the tournament with a 31.8 ppg scoring average, and is shooting a lights-0ut 51% from the field.  It will be interesting to see how Team USA defends him, and whether Rosario will be able to get the same looks he’s gotten throughout this tournament.  His success in New Zealand comes on the heels of a successful trip to France where Puerto Rico finished second in the World Juniors Tournament there and Rosario was named to the all-tournament team.  At Rutgers, Rosario tended to have a gunner’s mentality last season, often shooting his team out of Big East games as quickly as into them, but if his summer shooting percentages are any indication of improved shot selection, head coach Fred Hill has a budding star on his hands in Piscataway. 

Welcome to the Show: Identifying the Freshmen Primed to Make an Impact in the SEC “East”

Fall isn’t just for football in the Southeastern Conference – it also means the start of hardwood action for some of college basketball’s most powerful programs in the South. The SEC suffered through a rough patch in 2012-13. The league sent only three teams to the NCAA Tournament, and one of those – Ole Miss – happened to be a bubble team that blasted its way into the field thanks to a Marshall Henderson-led victory in the conference tournament. This year will be different. A talented group of recruits is ready to help guide the league back to national prominence. Eleven of the nation’s top 25 high school seniors chose conference schools last spring, and they’ll take the court looking to make an impact for their teams as non-conference play begins in November. Today, we’ll look at those difference-making newcomers, starting with the teams of the SEC “East.” We’ll run through each program, along with the one true freshman who is most likely to have a significant impact for his team in 2013-14.

John Calipari once again has plenty of talent to work with. (Getty)

John Calipari once again has plenty of talent to work with. (Getty)

  • KentuckyAndrew Harrison. With six five-star recruits to choose from, Harrison’s spot at the top of the list for Kentucky is a tenuous one. However, the return of players like Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein, along with John Calipari’s history of developing high-level guards, gives Harrison the edge for now. The Texan will step into Coach Cal’s long line of top-flight point guards with the Wildcats this season, joining luminaries such as Derrick Rose, John Wall, Brandon Knight, Marquis Teague, and Eric Bledsoe. The departure of guards Archie Goodwin, Ryan Harrow, and Julius Mays should open up plenty of room in the UK backcourt for the nation’s top point guard recruit. Harrison has the size and athleticism to defend both guard positions and the basketball IQ to command an offense at the next level. He was especially proficient at running the fast break in high school, and he’ll look to push the tempo for the Cats this winter. He’ll have to improve his shooting to become a complete player, but he should have a successful freshman year with Kentucky. Read the rest of this entry »

Morning Five: 05.01.13 Edition

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  1. One of the problems with the NCAA is its stark lack of investigative power. Sometimes what is obvious to everyone cannot be properly investigated and proven because the organization is a private entity, and as such, does not possess subpoena power. In short, they can’t make people do much of anything that would help punish wrongdoers. They pretty much have to depend on folks stepping forward of their own volition or some kind of whistleblower situation where they are provided clear evidence of illicit activity. Enter Duke and Lance Thomas. Even though it is abundantly clear that Thomas received a loan for jewelry where it was unclear how he could pay for it while still enrolled at Duke, the NCAA was unable to get anybody — Thomas, the jeweler, his dog — to talk about the situation. No proof equals no violation, and if you follow it out to its logical conclusion, that means no negative consequences for Duke — especially for the 2010 national championship team (of which Thomas was a starter). Is it fair that such a clear NCAA violation is unprovable? At what point is it acceptable to apply a standard of strict liability where the preponderance of the evidence is greater than what can be proven? These are the kinds of questions that the NCAA really needs to clarify if it ever wants to be taken seriously by the media and public at large when it comes to these situations. Until then, people will continue to assume an agenda-driven basis for how it metes out punishment, and that’s never a good thing.
  2. The NBA Draft deadline was Sunday night and we here at RTC found time to release our post-deadline Top 25 yesterday. We weren’t the only ones. SI.com‘s Luke Winn came up with his post-deadline Power Rankings, and go figure, but our top four is exactly the same as his. Of course, the big difference is that you’ll learn more about TJ McConnell, Shabazz Napier, and Luke Hancock than you ever knew was possible. As we start to hit the long, dry desert of college basketball news from now until October, make sure you read this one as one of your jumping-off points into the summer.
  3. While on the subject of next season, ESPN.com‘s Fran Fraschilla gives us his take on what some of the more prominent returnees can improve their overall effectiveness next season. From probable preseaseon NPOY Doug McDermott to All-America candidates Jahii Carson, Glenn Robinson III, and Gary Harris, the ex-coach evaluates what these players need to do to maximize their collegiate careers. If you said that Carson needs to figure out his left hand, Robinson should understand screens better, and Harris needs to work on ball control, then you’re well on your way to working for the WWL someday.
  4. The last time a prominent player headed south from Rutgers to Florida, it worked out pretty well for the Gators. Mike Rosario headed to Gainesville two summers ago, and in the interim, he learned the difference between scoring and shooting, found that the game works a little better when he passes the ball on occasion, and became a much more effective and efficient all-around player in fewer minutes per game. Can lightning strike twice from New Jersey to Gainesville? Rutgers’ Eli Carter announced on Tuesday that he too was transferring to Florida, and the current Scarlet Knights gunner (14.9 PPG on 31.0% usage) is hoping to find the same uptick in his game after the transfer. Carter will face a similar backlog in backcourt talent but Billy Donovan has shown that he’s more than willing to give players like him a chance to succeed.
  5. And then there’s this from Lexingtonia. Ships passing, man; ships passing. Next year is going to be some kind of awesome.
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SEC Grades: Recapping the SEC “East” Season That Was

Christian D’Andrea is a microsite contributor and an editor at Anchor of Gold. You can find him on Twitter @TrainIsland.

The 2012-13 NCAA basketball slate is firmly in our rear view, and with that comes some valuable perspective. The SEC struggled through one of its worst overall seasons in recent memory, but ultimately the year will be remembered more for Marshall Henderson’s theatrics and another Elite Eight appearance for Billy Donovan than it will be for Mississippi State’s rebuilding or Vanderbilt’s 50-33 loss to Marist. The league may have sputtered in its first season with Texas A&M and Missouri on board, but a slew of promising performances across the south suggests that 2013-14 will bring a return to high-major basketball for the conference.

The SEC Turned Out to be Open to Others This Year

The SEC Turned Out to be Open to Others This Year

With that in mind, let’s look back at how each team in the “East” finished out its season, and what hope may lie ahead for these seven programs. Several of the East’s programs have young cores that will return with valuable experience in 2013-14, and at least five of the division’s teams look like they’ll improve on lackluster seasons. For reference, our mid-season look at the East can be found here.

Vanderbilt

  • Season Summary: The Commodores got what they needed in 2013 – growth – even if it took a long and winding road to get there. Early in the season, Kevin Stallings’ team had been held to just 33 points on two separate occasions and was getting little from veterans Rod Odom and Kyle Fuller. Only Kedren Johnson displayed the proficiency to carry this team through stretches, and the bulk of his sophomore season was played under the stress of a nagging shoulder injury. In the season’s final weeks, things began to fall into place. Odom proved that he could be a key player on a winning team, while Fuller developed into a change-of-pace scorer off the bench. Freshmen Kevin Bright and Sheldon Jeter put together solid performances that showed that Stallings’ 2012 recruiting class may have been overlooked. In all, the ‘Dores finished light years from where they started, and that was the best fans in Nashville could have hoped for after losing their top six players from 2012.
  • Grade: C
  • Reason to be hopeful in 2013-14: Vanderbilt doesn’t lose anyone from its 16-17 squad, and will add four-star big man Damian Jones and former Tulsa guard Eric McClellan to the roster this fall. The Commodores are primed for a return to postseason play.

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The RTC Way-Too-Early 2013-14 Top 25

If Preseason Top 25s are an exercise in futility, polls the day after the national championship game are an exercise in imagination. We don’t know exactly what rosters are going to look like next season, what with early entry announcements, transfers (both in and out), late signees and the inevitable summer run-ins with trouble still pending. So, below, we’ll try to project, using the partial information that we have, just who are the 25 teams most likely to win a national title next season. After the NBA Draft deadline has passed, we’ll do a more educated Top 25, but until then…

  1. Kentucky – Many will be leery to pick the Wildcats #1 based on the missteps of 2012-13, but the talent here is hard to deny. Joining returnees like Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein, John Calipari adds another stellar recruiting class with (so far) four top-10 recruits (Julius Randle, the Harrison twins and James Young) and another pair in the next 10 (Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee). The program will again have a huge spotlight on it as they try to get six or more future first-round draft picks to play nice together, but despite his failures this season, Calipari has done enough to earn the trust that he’ll fold these guys into a cohesive unit. They may not be the best team at the start of the year, but they’re the favorites to cut down the nets in Cowboys Stadium next April.

    The Harrison Twins Are Just A Small Part Of The Talent John Calipari Will Have In Lexington Next Year

    The Harrison Twins Are Just A Small Part Of The Talent John Calipari Will Have In Lexington Next Year

  2. Florida – After a down year in the SEC, we’re projecting a return to dominance at the top. The Gators lose Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario and Erik Murphy, but with ESPN’s #9 recruit, point guard Kasey Hill, and #14 recruit, power forward Chris Walker, coming in, along with a pair of newly eligible frontcourt players in Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris, Billy Donovan’s squad could be even better.
  3. Arizona Sean Miller’s got a ridiculous front line chock full of McDonald’s All-Americans, with Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett all expected back and Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson arriving. Throw in Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell as a true point and Nick Johnson back for his junior campaign and this Wildcats team should dominate the Pac-12.
  4. Duke – Coach K loses a lot, with Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly all gone, but Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon will be joined by Andre Dawkins returning from a year off and elite recruit Jabari Parker arriving for his freshman year. If the Blue Devils can find some toughness up front from guys like Amile Jefferson, Alex Murphy and Josh Hairston, they’ll again be in the thick of things.
  5. Michigan State – Let’s make the assumption that a 6’10” guy with jump-out-of-the-gym ability and a nice three-point stroke like Adreian Payne is heading to the NBA. Nevertheless, with Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine returning and Tom Izzo back on the sideline, pencil the Spartans in as a the Big Ten favorite. Read the rest of this entry »

South Regional Final Game Analysis: #3 Florida vs #4 Michigan

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#3 Florida vs. #4 Michigan – South Regional Final (Los Angeles, CA) – 7:05PM ET on CBS

Florida-Michigan may be an undercard to the ridiculous Louisville-Duke game later today, but that doesn’t mean that it will be of much lower quality as it features two teams that were in the top 10 for most of the season and in the top 5 for long stretches. It was only late season slides that kept these teams from being on the 1 or 2 line on Selection Sunday. Despite those late season struggles both teams have recovered and have managed to play excellent basketball leading up to today.

Florida is of course the darling of advanced metrics fans as they have put up impressive efficiency numbers, but many observers have questioned whether the team has the ability to win close games as they have lost all six games they have played this year that were decided by single digits. The flip side of that is that their other 29 wins have been by double digits showing just how effective they can be. The Gators will have a tough time making this their 30th double-digit win of the season as Michigan is much better than anybody they have beaten this season and probably better than anybody they have played this year with the possible exception of Arizona (one of Florida’s six single-digit losses). To beat the Wolverines the Gators will need to find a way to contain Trey Burke who rebounded from a scoreless first half to score 23 points to go along with 10 assists. The task of containing Burke will likely fall on Scottie Wilbekin, who compared Burke to Phil Pressey yesterday. While Pressey is an excellent player and creator he lacks the explosive offensive game of Burke. In addition, Burke has been exceptional in his ability to create while taking care of the ball as he came into the weekend with a 3.11 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranks 4th in the nation.

Burke Will Be The Focus Of The Gator Defense

Burke may be the star for Michigan, but Florida will have to contend with a trio of outstanding perimeter players in Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III, and Nick Stauskas who all can provide scoring from the outside if Burke struggles to find his shot. On the inside, Patric Young will be matched up with Mitch McGary, who has recovered from a slow start to his freshman season, which he has openly admitted was due to his poor conditioning and effort, to lead the Wolverines in scoring in the NCAA Tournament with 19.7 points per game while making a ridiculous 75.7% of his shots from the field and has added 12.3 rebounds per game for good measure. Young should have the ability to overpower McGary, but based on the comments of the Gators yesterday (essentially admitted they knew nothing about him) they may be underestimating his game. And as Jeff Withey and Kansas found out that could be a very bad idea.

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ATB: A Huge Michigan Comeback, Dunk City’s Swan Song and Duke Holds Off Sparty…

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. Sweet 16 Part Deux. At the risk of sounding blunt or insensitive, there is no shame in calling Thursday night’s Sweet 16 match-ups exactly what they were: dry, boring, dull, a monotonous combination of the three. The most surprising outcomes of the night – Syracuse’s win over Indiana; Marquette’s blowout of Miami – disrupted the Miami-Indiana Elite 8 match-up forecasted on most bracket sheets, but the nature of said disruption was never in doubt. The Golden Eagles and Orange were in control from the start; folks spent much of both games lamenting the reasons behind the top seed carnage and ruing their teams’ demises on Twitter and saying the sorts of irrational things irritant fans are wont to say at times of sudden grief. Wichita State and La Salle was just as one-sided – the Shockers’ battered John Giannini’s team on the glass and corralled its guard-oriented attack into an aimless game of roadrunning hot-potato. The only game of any real entertainment value was Ohio State-Arizona, with LaQuinton Ross providing the buzzer-beating highlight of the night. We entered Friday night’s prospectively titillating slate with hopes of widespread competitiveness and high-strung tension, and with Florida Gulf Coast pitted against Florida in the most unlikely of in-state bragging rights games, Michigan State and Duke meeting in a Hall of Fame coaching legacy grudge match, the forecast showed promise. So, did Friday night redeem the Sweet 16 after Thursday night’s plainly mediocre lineup?

Your watercooler moment. The Best Game Of The Season? 

Storming back in the final moments to tie Kansas, then win in overtime, Michigan's resolve and determination down the stretch was something to behold (Getty Images).

Storming back in the final moments to tie Kansas, then win in overtime, Michigan’s resolve and determination down the stretch was something to behold (Getty Images).

Late in the second half, as Kansas spread its scoring output among all five starters in almost equal measure, it began to look as if  the Jayhawks’ veteran lineup was going to hold off Michigan’s young charges for a trip to the Elite 8. That prediction looked safer than ever with just under four minutes remaining and Kansas leading by 11. The rest seemed academic – all Kansas needed to do was play sound and turnover-free basketball over the final minutes, shepherd home a comfortable victory, carry out a quick locker room celebration and rest up for a Final Four entry game Sunday. Nice season Michigan, you had your fun, now go home and enjoy the rest of this Tournament from a nice, comfortable, TV-appointed couch. Hand shakes and bro hugs. All that good stuff. Or so Kansas thought: Trey Burke did not subscribe to that logic, nor did the rest of his teammates, as the Wolverines erased KU’s lead on a 22-8 run powered and concluded by Burke’s overtime-inducing, ice-cold, 30-foot jumper with five seconds remaining. The blown lead was just as much a product of Kansas’ own mistakes as it was Burke’s sheer brilliance, but the unquantifiably crucial momentum advantage had fallen towards the Wolverines, and the overtime period played out much the way you’d expect. A questionable last-possession drive-and-dish from Elijah Johnson sealed Michigan’s win, along with its first appearance in a regional final since the Fab Five heyday. If One Shining Moments can be had in advance of the National Championship game, Burke’s came in the second half and overtime Friday night (he went scoreless in the first half). His game-tying three was the most visible highlight of a 23-point, 10-assist performance that will forever be remembered in Wolverines lore as the most willful single-half effort of  Michigan’s 21st century hoops resurgence. Burke is the best player left in this field, and he couldn’t have made a stronger statement to validate that title than what he did Friday night.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Florida 62, #15 Florida Gulf Coast 50

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Three Key Takeaways.

  1. It is about fundamentals. Dunk City was fun while it lasted, but in the end your idea of execution has to go beyond just throwing up lobs. America fell in love with Florida Gulf Coast’s style of play, which consisted of aggression consistently being taken out against the rim. When it is working it is a beautiful thing to watch, but when it doesn’t it can get ugly very quickly. After jumping out to a 24-14 lead with 5:23 left in the first half the wheels came off the Dunk City bandwagon very quickly as Florida went on a 16-0 run to go up 30-24 and they never looked back. Although the Gators never pulled away (their largest was 12 with 7:25 left) the game never seemed in doubt as the swagger that Florida Gulf Coast exhibited for nearly 2.5 games of the NCAA Tournament disappeared and appeared tentative despite the occasional flashy dunk.
  2. Florida will have to play better if they expect to beat Michigan on Sunday. Beating a team that has been as hot as Florida Gulf Coast has been is never an easy task, but Florida did not look like a national title contender against an overmatched team with the exception of their 16-0 run late in the first half. They had multiple chances to put the game away, but let Florida Gulf Coast hang around. Mike Rosario played well, but none of the Gators played that well. It was a sloppy effort overall and should raise concerns for a team without a true leader and one that has still not won a close game.
  3. What’s next for Andy Enfield? The Florida Gulf Coast coach has become something like an Internet sensation for a variety of reasons–his wife, career at Johns Hopkins, and business career–and this has led to some speculation that he might be moving onto another job. We won’t dismiss that possibility, but we would probably point to a mid-major opening created by someone leaving for Minnesota or UCLA. No reasonable athletic director (ok, maybe we are assuming too much) would consider someone who coached a good, but not exceptional team that just happened to get hot and matched up against vulnerable teams. Despite their run in the NCAA Tournament they are not even considered heavy favorites to win the Atlantic Sun again next year. If Enfield can build on this and make a successful, sustainable program, then perhaps he can dream about a big-time job.

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Florida’s Reliance on Outside Shooting Could be a Problem

Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.

Advanced metrics gurus are a special breed. They log into KenPom daily, memorize obscure stats, create new algorithms to break down play-by-play data, and probably a whole host of other geeky stat guy nuances that we don’t even know about, but above all they utilize and fully believe in advanced metrics. And if you put faith in tempo free efficiency models to justify and explain what you see on the court, chances are you’re slightly higher than the rest of the basketball world on the Florida Gators.

The effectiveness of Mike Rosario and his backcourt partners could be the key to how far Florida advances. (Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY Sports)

The effectiveness of Mike Rosario and his backcourt partners could be the key to how far Florida advances. (Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY Sports)

There are a lot of reasons to like Florida. According to KenPom, UF is the number one ranked team with the third ranked adjusted defensive efficiency unit and the fourth ranked adjusted offensive efficiency unit. Florida holds opponents to just a 42.8% effective field goal rate. We could go on, but you already know there are even more reasons to dislike the Gators’ chances of advancing. They haven’t won a game decided by single digits all year, they’ve blown several close leads, and they lack a go-to player to finish in the clutch. But when examining Florida’s play, there’s an area we can all agree on; the Gators take a lot of threes. You also don’t need advanced metrics to tell you that Billy Donovan’s squad makes a high percentage of those shots as well, making the Gators a curious case study once again for blending the observed reality with an analysis of advanced metrics.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.28.13 Edition

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The NCAA Tournament is here and there’s more news, commentary and analysis than any of us can possibly keep up with. To make things a little easier, we’ll bring you a list of daily links gathered about teams in each of the four regions all the way through the Final Four.
Midwest Region
  • Louisville coach Rick Pitino received a little scouting help at practice Wednesday. Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford stopped by the Cardinals’ practice to give some advice to his former coach. Ford’s Cowboys lost to Oregon, Louisville’s Sweet Sixteen opponent, in the Round of 64.
  • The game of basketball has unquestionably evolved and changed over the course of Louisville coach Rick Pitino‘s career, but one thing has remained constant for the veteran coach, and that is his great appreciation for defensive deflections.
  • Oregon shot just 31.9% on three-pointers during the regular season, but the Ducks have really turned it on in the postseason, shooting 47.4% from three-point range in five tournament games this month.
  • Louisville is well known for its intense defensive pressure and that has caused Oregon to expend a great deal of time and energy to prepare for that pressure.
  • Legendary Michigan State coach Jud Heathcote is planning on attending the Final Four if Michigan State is able to advance to Atlanta.
  • After watching forward Branden Dawson‘s passion pick up in last week’s wins over Valparaiso and Memphis, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo identifies the sophomore as the key player in Friday night’s game against Duke.
  • Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and center Mason Plumlee were highly complimentary of Blue Devils’ freshman swingman Rasheed Sulaimon for his performance in Sunday’s victory over Creighton.
  • Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com reported Wednesday morning that Duke associate head coach Chris Collins has verbally agreed to become the next head coach at Northwestern. While Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski remarked Wednesday that it was not yet a done deal, he did acknowledge that Northwestern would be getting a “great coach” in Collins.

West Region

  • ESPN analyst Jay Bilas thinks highly of Wichita State and its Sweet Sixteen berth, saying, “Wichita State is not a Cinderella team. You can’t label a team that is consistently excellent like that.”
  • Wichita State forward Carl Hall arrived to the program as a slightly out-of-shape junior college transfer before the 2011-12 season and that is among the reasons why the hard-nosed rebounder is never satisfied.
  • La Salle coach John Giannini sees as many similarities as differences between the Explorers’ current run with the run he had to a national title as the coach of Division III Rowan University in 1996.
  • After originally being listed as doubtful, La Salle sophomore center Steve Zack has been cleared to play Thursday against Wichita State. The Explorers’ big man has not played since March 2 due to a foot injury.
  • Arizona senior forward Solomon Hill donned a gold practice jersey to a press conference at the Staples Center on Wednesday. He wore the gold jersey because it symbolized that he was the Wildcat who performed best in practice this week. Hill is going to need to bring the same effort into Thursday’s game with Ohio State as he faces a tough match-up against standout Buckeyes forward Deshaun Thomas.
  • Arizona freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski has matured a lot over the course of his first season and his ability to hit his stride at the right time has been crucial for the Wildcats.
  • Ohio State forward Deshaun Thomas‘ ability to score around the basket and step out to hit a long-range jumper makes him a unique player. The match-up issues he presents are certainly going to challenge Arizona on Thursday.
  • Ohio State sophomore LaQuinton Rosslate-season emergence might be a key factor for the Buckeyes in Thursday’s game with Arizona.

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