What Does Florida Need to Do to Become Great?

Posted by Brian Joyce on March 12th, 2013

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.

Less than a month ago, Florida seemed destined for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament. Now, with three straight road losses and having lost four of its last five away contests, Florida is heading into the SEC Tournament needing to win it all just to be in the running for a two seed. More importantly, Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators seem to have lost all the momentum it had heading into the final stages of the season.

Donovan

What Can Donovan Do to Make His Very Good Team Great?

Florida’s ability to win in close game situations has to be of concern. The Gators’ most recent loss came at the hands of Kentucky in a 61-57 thriller in Rupp Arena. “We’re going to get into a close situation again,” Donovan said. “There’s no doubt about it. How will we respond? I don’t know.” So far this season, Donovan’s Gators haven’t responded well. In games decided by single digits, Florida is 0-5. Even more relevant than the score has been the way in which his team lost. Against the Wildcats, the Gators held a 57-50 lead with over seven and a half minutes remaining on the clock. Florida didn’t score a point for the remainder of the game, missing 11 shots and committing five turnovers as it watched Kentucky go on an 11-0 run. Have the Gators lost their mojo at the worst time possible?

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SEC M5: 12.12.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 12th, 2012

  1. The NCAA honored the 2006-07 Florida Gators by naming them one of the top 25 teams in NCAA Tournament history, and Joakhim Noah as one of the top 75 players to ever play in the Tournament. The back-to-back Gators ran through the regular season and NCAA Tournament on their way to a 35-5 record and a repeat performance as National Champions. Dick Vitale spoke about where Florida ranked in terms of all-time great teams. “They rank very high to me in terms of their loyalty factor,” Vitale said. “In today’s day and age, everyone runs for the quick buck, have visions of grandeur and the dollar. Those kids have to be commended, Noah and (Al) Horford and (Corey) Brewer could have taken a lot of cash. But it’s a tribute to the school, tribute to the coaches and it certainly was an outstanding team defensively.” Two Kentucky teams (1995-96 and 2011-12) also made the list, as well as several SEC players, but what about the 1993-94 Arkansas Razorbacks? Nolan Richardson’s team went 31-3 on the year, beating Duke for the 1994 National Championship. For a complete list of the NCAA’s all-time teams, players, and moments from the NCAA Tournament, be sure to click here.
  2. Auburn lost four games in a row before Tuesday’s bounce-back game against winless Grambling. Including Tuesday night’s victory, the Tigers have four home games in a row where they are hoping to build back a winning attitude. “We just have to be more confident with the ball,” freshman guard Jordan Price said. “At the end of the game, we have a lot of turnovers, defensive breakdowns, offensive breakdowns, so we have to be more confident.” Like several SEC teams, Auburn coach Tony Barbee is trying to blend a lot of  newcomers. “We’ve got a lot of new faces and old faces, particularly new faces, trying to fit into the program,” center Asauhn Dixon-Tatum said. “We’ve had some miscommunication, but everything seems to be falling into place.” It needs to fall into place quickly for the Tigers. They play Illinois and Florida State before beginning conference play.
  3. The search for what ails the Kentucky Wildcats continues to fall short. ESPN took a stab, and so did our friends at CollegeBasketballTalk, but both missed the most detrimental factor of the Wildcats’ shortcomings. Myron Medcalf wrote, “So Kentucky doesn’t have a talent problem. It has a youth problem, a point guard problem, an inexperience problem. The Cats were not as good as they thought they were and now they know it.” Youth has never been an issue. The 2011-12 Kentucky squad proved that. Point guard play and inexperience rear their ugly head consistently, but Medcalf and CBT miss one of the biggest issues. Defense is one of the largest ailments for the 2012-13 Wildcats. Kentucky’s effective field goal percentage defense ranks 52nd in the country. Last year, John Calipari’s team was number one in that category. The problem is partly because Kentucky gives up too many shots at the rim (34% of the overall opponents shots are taken at the rim), and too often don’t get back on defense after missed shots.
  4. Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer has always been a liability on the defensive end, but who would have thought the three-point marksman would hurt the Wildcats on offense? With the exception of two games where Wiltjer played well and caught fire from beyond the arc against weaker competition, the sharpshooting forward hasn’t made more than one three-pointer in any other game. And overall, Wiltjer is shooting eight fewer percentage points from outside than he did last season. Players are supposed to increase their shooting numbers as they get older and more experienced, right? Wiltjer’s difficulties on the offensive end are in part because the rest of Kentucky’s offensive threats aren’t drawing double teams like last year’s stars. Last year, Kentucky’s penetration into the lane caused defenders to sag down to help leaving Wiltjer wide open for the jumper. Kentucky’s slashers don’t draw as much attention this year which leaves Wiltjer to create his own shot, which is not his forte.
  5. Missouri is ready to welcome in some help in transfer Jabari Brown, who is expected to be cleared to play by the end of this week. Frank Haith is looking forward to what Brown will contribute to the Tigers. “We need him to be Jabari Brown — not to be Mike Dixon, not to be Marcus Denmon,” Haith said. But teammates say Brown will be just fine being himself, and bringing some much needed shooting to the roster. “He can shoot the ball,” point guard Phil Pressey said. “He’s hit a couple in my face, so I know he can shoot the ball.” Forward Laurence Bowers was even more direct about Brown’s impact. “He’s definitely, I would say, probably the best shooter on our team. From practice, it’s been pretty clear,” Bowers said. Missouri isn’t exactly shooting lights out, and with the loss of Dixon, the Tigers will certainly benefit from Brown’s addition to the team.
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Analyzing Advanced Metrics: Does Florida Have What It Takes to be a Championship-Level Team?

Posted by Brian Joyce on November 28th, 2012

It’s November, and that is far too early to come to any major conclusions in college basketball. However, the Florida Gators opened up the 2012-13 campaign in dominant fashion. Nobody who has played Billy Donovan’s team has yet to finish a game within single digits of the Gators. They put a good Wisconsin team away by 18 points, beat Middle Tennessee State by 21, and wore down rival Central Florida by 13. But is Florida a team that could end up as a national champion at the end of the year? We know enough about the makeup of national championship teams as a result of 10 years of advanced statistics that it is not out of the question to begin to hypothesize.

Could Donovan Have a Shot at His Third National Title This Season?

There are a couple of general principles that have been established from the data available at Ken Pomeroy’s site. Before we get into that, it is important to remember that a lot can change from now until March. While he wrote the following passage regarding individual player stats, it is still somewhat applicable here. Before proceeding, we should all read Pomeroy’s “small size sample oath” to keep in mind the limited scope of the statistics and the fluidity of the numbers over the next several months.

I, (state your name), understand that the player stats are based on extremely limited information in mid-November. I understand that Erik Murphy is not the best college basketball player of all time and that Adreian Payne is not going to grab anything close to 43% of opponents’ missed shots nor 0% of his own team’s misses for a full season. Additionally, I understand that some of the numbers displayed on these pages are utterly meaningless at this point, like Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson’s free throw rate or anything on Jordan Vandenberg’s line. I will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the responsible use of advanced stats for individuals in mid-November.

In analyzing statistics from the national champions from 2003 to present, there are four common denominators of national championship teams:

1) The national champion has never come from outside the KenPom top 10.

Overall KenPom rankings for past 10 national champs (national rankings in parenthesis).

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SEC Morning Five: 02.10.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 10th, 2012

  1. Mississippi State point guard Dee Bost had lots to say prior to the first matchup with rival Ole Miss, but he hasn’t had much to say this go-around after suffering a loss against the Rebels. Bost refused to trash talk on Twitter, resorting instead to focusing on the task at hand. “We’ve got to get our competitive edge back and just go out there and compete,” said Bost. “And take it personal when anybody scores on us.” The senior played much better in the rematch scoring 15 points and dishing out 13 assists to lead the Bulldogs to a 70-60 win. Maybe Bost will have plenty to say afterwards, but his play did the talking this time around.
  2. The Florida Gators are ready to regroup after a 20-point loss to Kentucky on Tuesday. “We have to move on,” Florida freshman guard Bradley Beal said. “We’ll have a day off (Wednesday) and then we will watch film and then be ready for the next game Saturday against Tennessee. We have to put this one behind us.” The game against Kentucky was Florida’s worst game as far as the numbers go. The Gators shot their worst field goal and three-point field goal percentages of the season. It was the second lowest point total for Florida all season. And the 20-point margin was by far the largest loss of the season for the Gators. This game is one Billy Donovan and company would like to forget.
  3. South Carolina lost by 34 to the Wildcats last week, and now Gamecocks’ fans are wondering if their beloved team will win again this season. The Gamecocks are losing the faith amongst the natives in Columbia. “Each game (with the exception of Alabama) plays like a broken record: poor execution, questionable coaching, a chance to turn things around and maybe even pull off a win, then the comeback bid falling short. Another game, another loss for South Carolina’s men’s basketball team.” Fortunately for South Carolina, the most winnable game on paper is approaching on Wednesday with a home game against the Georgia Bulldogs (11-12 overall, 2-7 SEC).
  4. The Kentucky Wildcats have a star in center Anthony Davis, but Big Blue Nation cannot cash in on Davis’ success. The UK Athletics office has issued a cease and desist order to Wildcats’ fans who were selling posters of the freshman and his incredible wingspan. “We have to do everything we can to prevent from someone making a profit off of an amateur student-athlete’s image or name,” UK Athletics spokesman DeWayne Peevy said. “And so if somebody puts something on eBay or sells it in a store, our normal process is a cease-and-desist letter.” As basketball crazed as Kentucky fans are, it is surprising to find these collector’s items for sale considering Wildcat fans aren’t usually ones to give up their basketball memorabilia so easily.
  5. While CBS Sports believes the race for National Player of the Year is between Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis and Kansas forward Thomas Robinson, RTC claims Davis is the clear frontrunner after his performance against Florida. Statistically, Davis isn’t the leader, but his impact on both ends of the court is what puts him at the top of the discussion. But despite all of the accolades and praise, he has remained a great teammate. Coach John Calipari said, ” I said to both of them (Davis and fellow freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist), ‘You guys understand, these guys love playing with you because you don’t command the ball. You defend. You rebound. You block shots.’ They get to shoot all the balls. What’s better than that?” The only thing better is the 16-game winning streak the Cats are currently on with the aid of the two dynamic freshmen.
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SEC Morning Five: 10.19.11 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 19th, 2011

  1. Jason King wrote his first article since joining the ESPN crew on what he knows about college basketball. He wrote, “The Big East will (again) be the country’s top conference this season, but I’m more excited about the SEC. Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt are Final Four contenders, and no team intrigues me more than Mississippi State.” I couldn’t agree more. It will be a great season to be an SEC basketball fan.
  2. Gary Parrish of CBS turned in his 50 player ballot for the Naismith Award. Lots of SEC love as ten conference players made the list, including five Kentucky players. The SEC list consists of Brad Beal (Florida), Dee Bost (Mississippi State), Anthony Davis (Kentucky), JaMychal Green (Alabama), John Jenkins (Vanderbilt), Terrence Jones (Kentucky), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky), Doron Lamb (Kentucky), Jeffery Taylor (Vanderbilt) and Marquis Teague (Kentucky). If you love lists, and since you’re reading one now I bet you do, you will love the excellent coverage at CBSSports.com as they have also unveiled a list of the Top 100 players in college basketball and a Preseason All-America list. Of course, the SEC is well represented on both with Vandy’s Jenkins placing as a first team All-American. However, it was Jeff Goodman’s placement of Terrence Jones on his fourth team All-America list that sent mobs of angry Kentucky fans Goodman’s way. Goodman placed Thomas Robinson of Kansas on his first team over Wildcats Anthony Davis and Jones. I ask you, loyal SEC fans, is the best power forward in the country from the SEC?
  3. Not sure whether to add ESPNU to your cable package? Well, ESPN released its television schedule with more than 1,450 regular season and Championship Week games across ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN3, ESPN4… sorry, I got carried away. The release is a 23-page document with 11,122 words in it, so make sure you have a couple of hours to go through it all. Just want the highlights? College Gameday will visit the SEC once in Nashville for the Kentucky/Vanderbilt matchup on February 11. Super Tuesday returns with a Big Ten/SEC doubleheader on ESPN, and an ACC/SEC doubleheader on ESPNU. That should make your decision on ponying up a few extra bucks for the U a little easier. Finally, the SEC Tournament semifinals and championship games will be televised nationally on ABC.
  4. It was initially believed that Florida may violate NCAA rules by using two basketballs during game action to ensure they have enough shots to go around for their ball-hoggin’ backcourt, but a Gainesville Sun article says Billy Donovan is impressed with the unselfish behavior of his guards. He pointed out that point guard Erving Walker has taken the third fewest shots on the team in the early going of practice. Donovan said, “he has really tried to grasp and understand who he is playing with on the floor. His assist to turnover ratio has been really good. I think he has an idea of the challenges in front of him.” Donovan has challenged his point guard to lead the SEC in assists this season. We’ll have to wait and see if Walker accepts that challenge, but he seems to be distributing the ball well in the early going.
  5. Kentucky fans who have been clamoring for more Dribble Drive Motion Offense will finally get their wish. On his website, John Calipari wrote his six observations from the first six days of UK’s practice. In number six, Cal wrote, “this may be a Dribble Drive team. Instead of using it 30 percent of the time, we may use it 70 percent of the time. They’re reacting quickly and they’ve got a feel for what’s going on. They’re doing pretty good with it.” The outspoken head Wildcat has never been one to hand out too much praise for his Wildcat teams, especially early on, but he’s been nothing but positive to start out this year. He even agreed with former Kentucky coach Joe B. Hall when Hall said that this year’s team is “way ahead of where we were a year ago.” That’s great news for Cat fans who will be quick to remind us that last year’s Final Four team wasn’t too shabby.
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Great Expectations for Five Highly Ranked SEC Freshmen

Posted by Brian Joyce on October 18th, 2011

This year, the SEC will be home to 14 McDonald’s All American Game alumni including JaMychal Green (2008), Kenny Boynton (2009), Renardo Sidney (2009), Patric Young (2010), Terrence Jones (2010), Doron Lamb (2010), Jelan Kendrick (2010), Brad Beal (2011), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (2011), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2011), Johnny O’Bryant (2011), Anthony Davis (2011), Marquis Teague (2011) and Kyle Wiltjer (2011). These players are selected using recruiting rankings and evaluations at the high school and AAU level. It is not an exact science, but obviously players ranked in the top of the class generally produce at the next level. Green, Boynton, Sidney, Young, Jones and Lamb have demonstrated their talent through superb play and numerous all-SEC selections among them (Kendrick remains to be seen). This year, expectations are at an all-time high. The focus of this post is on the five newbies the SEC welcomes from the top 12 of Scout.com’s final recruitment rankings for the Class of 2011 – Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, Beal, Teague, and Caldwell Pope. With that level of talent coming into the league it is certain that the SEC’s overall play and competitiveness will be elevated. However, is there any guarantee that with high expectations comes automatic production?

#1 recruit - Kentucky's Anthony Davis

To get some idea of what we can expect this season from the SEC’s highly ranked incoming freshmen, I have evaluated the top 12 players from Scout.com’s final recruiting rankings over the last five seasons. Why 12? Well, the best answer is that it seemed to be a good cutoff and I was too tired to extend it to 15 or 20. I am only one man people! I examined PPG in their first year in college, as well as results from whether or not they went pro as that is also an indicator of talent or at least potential. Here are the last five years of players and their point production beginning with the Class of 2006 and going through the Class of 2010.

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Backdoor Cuts: Vol. VII

Posted by jstevrtc on January 20th, 2010

Backdoor Cuts is a college basketball discussion between RTC correspondents Dave Zeitlin, Steve Moore, and Mike Walsh, whom one of the RTC crew often calls Matt.  This week the guys attempt to come up with college hoops’ answer to outdoor hockey, show their advancing age with references to the early 90s, and somehow get a couple of Jersey Shore references by the editors.

STEVE MOORE: With the illustrious quasi-sorta leader of our Gang of Three sitting in a jury box all week, I’ve been summoned to lead things off. And, as always, I’m going to use this space to make a terrible segue into referencing my alma mater.

Last weekend, I piled on 15 layers of long underwear and a snazzy new hockey jersey to watch my Boston University Terriers face the hated Boston College Eagles at Fenway Park. My seats weren’t that great, and we couldn’t see that much, but it was a blast — especially as the snow started coming down. Anyway, I thought it was a decent tie-in to this week’s topic, which is (drumroll please…), your choice for a non-traditional site for a college hoops game.

With Final Fours played in football stadiums, and even regular-season games taking place beneath 7 million-foot HD plasma screens, there has to be at least one or two athletic directors with this idea. Even pro basketball has gone outside, with the Phoenix Suns playing exhibition games outside at a tennis stadium. Weather will play an issue in any idea like this, which is why — for the sake of a fun argument — we will ignore it in this discussion. Let’s imagine that your proposed game could take place in the middle of the summer. Give me your venue and teams to take part, or even more than two teams if you think a double- or triple-header might be in order. Feel free to think outside the box.

Why not hoops?

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