Rushed Reactions: #3 Florida 78, #11 Minnesota 64

Posted by WCarey on March 24th, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 32 NCAA Tournament game between #3 Florida and #11 Minnesota in Austin.

Three Key Takeaways.

Florida Outmuscled and Outshot the Gophers Today (AP)

Florida Outmuscled and Outshot the Gophers Today (AP)

  1. Florida’s offense was very impressive. The Gators shot the ball very well all game. They finished at a 56.8% mark from the field along with a very impressive 50% mark from deep. Florida was able to build a very comfortable lead because of its torrid shooting, 65.2% from the field, in the first half. While Minnesota fought back in the second half to trim the Gators’ lead, Florida’s offense still played quite well in the second frame. Billy Donovan’s squad has had balanced scoring all season with four players (Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy, Mike Rosario, and Patric Young) averaging more than 10 points per contest. The Gators only had three guys in double figures in Sunday’s victory, but it was evident that the team focuses on sharing the ball among all five players instead of looking to one as its go-to guy. Rosario showed that he has the ability to go off from behind the three-point line, as he finished with a career-best 25 points on 6-of-9 shooting from deep.
  2. When Florida plays like it did in the first half, a national title is its ceiling. A statistic that shows just how dominant the Gators were in the first half: Rosario and Murphy combined for 32 first half points, while Minnesota, as a team, only managed to score 27 first half points. The Gators shot a scorching 65.2% from the field and connected on 7-of-14 three-point attempts during the opening frame. Florida also defended quite well during the first 20 minutes, as it held Minnesota to just 39.1% shooting, forced the Golden Gophers into many bad shots, and forced nine turnovers. The Gators have had a reputation for inconsistent play this season – especially late in the season – but if they can put forth similar performances to what they showed during the first half against Minnesota, they could cut realistically cut down the nets in Atlanta on April 8.
  3. Minnesota deserves a great deal of credit for fighting hard. When Minnesota fell behind by 21 at half, it could have definitely laid down and ended up losing by 30+. The Golden Gophers did not do that though, as instead they battled until the final buzzer. While the closest they got to Florida was seven points, they definitely had the Gators worried for awhile in the second half. Guard Andre Hollins was red hot from behind the arc in during that time, which resulted in Florida having to make adjustments to its perimeter defense. By opening the second half on a 17-5 run, Minnesota forced Florida back into attack mode as that was needed to ensure the victory. A lot has been discussed nationally about Tubby Smith‘s job status as the leader of the program. While some of the whispers are probably fair, the team’s effort definitely suggests that Smith did not lose his team this season.

Star of the Game. Mike Rosario, Florida. The senior was feeling it all night for the Gators. He finished with a career-best 25 points – on 8-of-12 shooting from the field and 6-of-9 shooting from deep. Whenever Florida needed a big shot, it looked to Rosario and he answered the bell. After having a subpar performance in the team’s Round of 64 victory over Northwestern State, Rosario was the best player on the floor in the Round of 32 and his performance has the Gators prepping for another Sweet 16 appearance.

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Rushed Reactions: #3 Florida 79, #14 Northwestern State 47

Posted by WCarey on March 22nd, 2013

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Walker Carey is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the Round of 64 NCAA Tournament game between #3 Florida and #14 Northwestern State in Austin.

Three Key Takeaways.

The Gators Pulled Away from the Demons Late

The Gators Pulled Away from the Demons Late

  1. Florida’s size and the athleticism of its bigs were just too much for Northwestern State. Everyone knew Florida was going to have a size and athleticism advantage over Northwestern State, but those advantages actually turned out to be much greater than expected. In a first half that was actually hotly-contested – Florida led by just eight at the break – the Gators took advantage of their athletic bigs Erik Murphy and Patric Young. Murphy tallied 11 points and Young tallied nine points in the opening frame. When Florida pulled away in the second half, its big continued to play a key role. Murphy finished the night with 18 points and eight rebounds, while Young finished with 16 points and eight boards. Reserves Will Yeguete and Casey Prather also provided Florida with solid minutes in the post. It is not that the Northwestern State bigs were not playing hard – they absolutely were – it was just they were so heavily overmatched on both ends of the court by the size and athletic ability of the Florida frontcourt.
  2. Florida’s guards played smart and avoided taking bad shots and committing bad turnovers. Florida’s guards have rightfully earned a reputation for being inconsistent and shaky with the basketball. That was not the case against Northwestern State, as Scottie Wilbekin, Kenny Boynton, and Mike Rosario all turned in pretty solid performances for the Gators. Wilbekin, who finished with 11 points and four assists, looked very solid running the offense and he also did a commendable job of scoring when needed. Boynton, who has been an enigma throughout his time in Gainesville, showed that he can absolutely turn in an efficient game by finishing with 11 points and refraining from taking any questionable shots. Rosario scored below his season average – he averages 12.3 points per game and he only finished with eight – but he avoided making mistakes. Florida is going to face better teams than Northwestern State as it continues its run through the tournament, but if its guards remain steady, there is an opportunity for the Gators to make it to Atlanta.
  3. With Georgetown falling tonight, Florida’s road to the Elite Eight got much easier. The South region became much more interesting when two-seed Georgetown suffered the upset of the tournament thus far by losing to 15-seed Florida Gulf Coast. Before the tournament began, a vast majority of national pundits were predicting a Florida/Georgetown matchup in next week’s South Regional at Cowboys Stadium. Now because that matchup cannot occur anymore, Florida will be the healthy favorite to come out of the bottom part of the South bracket. With the win over Northwestern State, the Gators advance to a Sunday showdown with either six-seed UCLA or 11-seed Minnesota. The winner of Sunday’s game will play the winner of Sunday’s game between Florida Gulf Coast and either seven-seed San Diego State or 10-seed Oklahoma. With a six-seed being the highest possible seed the Gators will have to face before the Elite Eight, it is only logical to conclude that their road to the Elite Eight has become much easier than originally expected.

Star of the Game. Erik Murphy, Florida. The senior forward helped set the tone for the Gators all night. Four Gators finished in double figures and Murphy led the way with 18 points. Murphy’s ability to finish around the hoop and step out and hit a jumper frustrated the Demons’ bigs all evening. Murphy was also part of an impressive defensive effort turned in by the Gators that held Northwestern State to just 15 points in the second half.

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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: 02.05.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on February 5th, 2013

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  1. Is Florida the nation’s best team? The Gators checked in at number one in the RTC weekly poll, but number two in the AP poll and USA Today/Coaches poll. But NBC Sports‘ Rob Dauster says it doesn’t matter what the rankings say, Florida is the best team. As Dauster points out, “if the season ended today, Florida would be the best defensive team of the past decade, and they do it playing man, zone and pressing, depending on who they’re playing. But Florida also happens to be the nation’s second-most powerful offense, sliding in between Michigan and Indiana. In other words, Florida is what happens when you take Louisville’s defense and Michigan’s offense and put them onto the same team.” Florida’s combination of offensive and defensive efficiency gives it a net difference of +43.3, which would also be the highest mark in the KenPom era. On paper, the Gators certainly have the look of a champion and its defense is becoming more and more impressive as the season goes on.
  2. The #2 ranking for Florida is its highest ranking since coming in first in the 2007 AP poll, but of course the Gators are not alluding to the high praise as changing anything in their preparation. “It just means that we’re on the right track,” UF center Patric Young said. “We just need to keep working and improving and not take any games for granted. We can’t lose any games right now.” If the Gators weren’t already circled on the calendar by other SEC teams, they surely are now. “Getting more recognition means that we have to be ready for everybody bringing their best shot at us,” Young said. “We’ve just got to take care of what we can control coming in and trying to get better each and every day.” UF travels to Arkansas on Tuesday, where the Razorbacks have only lost to Syracuse this season at Bud Walton Arena.
  3. In their last two losses, the Tennessee Volunteers have amassed over 20 turnovers per game, causing head coach Cuonzo Martin to talk about taking care of the ball. “We have to do a better job of finding shooters and that dribble penetration,” Martin said. “Because eight assists and 20 turnovers – we have to turn that thing around.” It probably didn’t help that UT was without Trae Golden in its most recent loss to Arkansas. Golden was the starting point guard entering the season for the Vols, but he hasn’t started a game since January 9. He has played well coming off the bench, though, and says he will “be back on the court in no time,” (via Twitter).
  4. Kentucky coach John Calipari is looking forward to a couple of games at home this week for his road-weary Wildcats. “I was surprised we were at home this week. We’ve been on the road four of five games. I thought we were just a road team. I didn’t think we played home games, but it’s good to be back. We’re playing two scrappy teams. When you watch them, they fight like heck.” Calipari was referring to Frank Martin’s Gamecocks of South Carolina and former Calipari assistant Tony Barbee’s Auburn Tigers. Both teams will likely get physical with the Wildcats, a style of play that has caused Kentucky a fair amount of trouble this season.
  5. Calipari explained during Monday’s SEC teleconference that point guard Ryan Harrow may begin to lose playing time once center Willie Cauley-Stein returns from injury. On Cauley-Stein’s return, Cal said, “Well, Kyle (Wiltjer) needs to play and Alex (Poythress) needs to play so it will probably take minutes away from Ryan (Harrow) and probably some minutes away from Archie (Goodwin) because if Alex and Kyle deserve to play more because of how they’re playing, well then who’s not… you’ve got to take somebody else out.” But Calipari seemed frustrated when trying to explain what has happened to Harrow recently. “I don’t know. I don’t know. Just gonna keep working with him.” Harrow has averaged almost three turnovers per game since the start of SEC play, and his 26 percent shooting from beyond the arc certainly isn’t helping his case either.
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SEC M5: 01.21.13 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on January 21st, 2013

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  1. Ole Miss‘ win over Arkansas gives the Rebels a 4-0 beginning to SEC play marking its best conference start since the 1936-37 season. That’s 76 years since the Rebels have began this well in league games. It may feel like it’s been about the same length of time since Andy Kennedy’s club has been to an NCAA Tournament (never under Kennedy; the last time was 2002), and the Rebels are hoping to break that streak too. And while they’re at it, they may even try to break into the Top 25 rankings, a faraway land that Ole Miss hasn’t seen since 2001. The players sense that something special is brewing in Oxford as well. “Anybody can see it,” said senior Nick Williams. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to do something great here, and we understand what we need to do because me, Murphy (Holloway) and Reg (Buckner) — we have been here for a while and we’ve been so close for so long.” Could this finally be the year that Ole Miss breaks through?
  2. Florida’s 83-52 thrashing of Missouri on Saturday led to a number of questions. Is Florida that good? Yes, especially at home. Is Missouri that bad? I really hope not. Does Laurence Bowers really make that much of a difference? No. But it’s undeniable that the Tigers are on a downward spiral. They’ve lost two of their last three games, and dropped three of their last six. To make matters worse, guard Keion Bell adds that Missouri simply wasn’t prepared. “I just think that we, as a team, we underestimated the amount of pressure that their full-court press would put on us,” Bell said. “Although the coaching staff has embedded it in our brains throughout the whole week, we just didn’t take heed to the things that they were saying about Florida’s pressure, and we weren’t ready at the beginning of the game.” Missouri needs to regroup before things get worse, and perhaps listen to the coaching staff during its preparation. A softer upcoming schedule of South Carolina, Vanderbilt, at LSU, and Auburn should help.
  3. It was a homecoming of sorts for Mississippi State Bulldog Jalen Steele, who always dreamed of playing in Thompson-Boling Arena. Steele grew up in Knoxville as a Tennessee Mr. Basketball, but then-Volunteers head coach Bruce Pearl went for two recruits you may have heard of instead — Aaron Craft and Josh Selby. Even though his basketball career didn’t work out exactly as planned, Steele finally heard his name called in Thompson-Boling Arena on Saturday. “To hear my name called and it said ‘Knoxville,’ that felt good,” Steele said. Steele showed he was good enough to play with the Vols too, as he added 15 points in a losing effort for the Bulldogs. I imagine it was a surreal moment, even in defeat, for a player who has been through a lot in Starkville.
  4. When you’re playing as well as Florida is right now, four points probably won’t matter, but it might one day. Gators center Patric Young isn’t satisfied with his free throw shooting after a 4-of-8 performance against LSU. “It’s huge because I’m leaving points on the board whenever you miss free throws,” Young said. “You go 4 for 8, that’s four points that help you with your draft stock or your average on the year. I mean, it doesn’t really matter but when it comes down to the line in a game-winning situation, you need to be able to step up with confidence.” For the sake of his draft stock, Young hit the practice courts to shoot 500 free throws a day, and the hard work is paying off. He entered the Texas A&M game shooting 50 percent from the line, but went 4-of-5 against the Aggies and 1-of-1 against Missouri.
  5. Kentucky has struggled against quality teams this season, but John Calipari’s Wildcats have a surplus of NBA talent on the roster. However, during an ESPNU telecast of the Kentucky vs. Auburn game on Saturday night, Charles Barkley said none of the current Wildcats were ready for the NBA. “John Calipari’s a friend of mine. I love him as a friend. There ain’t one player on this Kentucky team who should go pro early. I hate the one-and-done rule in college basketball. Just ’cause there’s a rule does not mean you have to do it. Listen, Anthony Davis played well enough for him to go pro. … I wish some of these parents would talk to their kids.” Though Cal’s younger Cats will excel in the pro game one day, Chuck has a point for the here and now. Archie Goodwin is probably the most pro-ready of the three freshman Wildcats most likely to be selected in the first round. Nerlens Noel is ready defensively, but his offensive game has a ways to go. But Alex Poythress is the biggest question mark in terms of making the jump. He has tendencies to disappear for long stretches offensively, and did you see his defense on Elston Turner?  The issue is not just directed towards Kentucky’s freshmen but the entire college game. The one-and-done mentality has watered down the talent level, enabling and pushing players like Noel and Poythress who could both benefit from an extra year of development to make the jump after just one year.
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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on January 18th, 2013

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Brendon Mulvihill is an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

The top teams in several conferences go head-to-head and a non-conference mid-major battle in the midwest should provide a spectacular weekend of college hoops. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

#6 Syracuse at #1 Louisville – 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino Meet on Saturday Again...

Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino Meet on Saturday Again…

  • The cream of the Big East crop lock up in what should be an epic defensive battle. This may be the best defensive match-up we will see all season. Jim Boeheim’s match-up zone versus Rick Pitino’s press will be fun to watch. Louisville is known for its ability to create lots of turnovers, but Syracuse is almost just as good at causing teams to make mistakes. Additionally, Syracuse blocks a bunch of shots and locks down the perimeter. Louisville counters with its own shot-blocker deluxe in Gorgui Dieng. The question for Syracuse is how they will break the Louisville press — look to see if they use their length to make passes over the top of the Cardinals’ defense to get down the court.  Also, watch the guard match-up between Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams of Syracuse and Peyton Siva and Russ Smith of Louisville. Triche and Carter-Williams have a significant size advantage that could make scoring from the Louisville backcourt limited, although Smith just seems to find ways to score anyway. Ultimately, this game will come down to whose defense plays better, but this game is shaping up to be a classic.

#17 Missouri at #8 Florida – 2:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (****)

  • Florida is coming off a dominant win against Texas A&M and is beginning to separate itself from the rest of the SEC. A win by Missouri on the road would be huge for the Tigers as they head into a stretch of games against the bottom tier of the league. Missouri needs to find a way to control the offensive boards without Laurence Bowers available if they are going to have a shot at winning this game. The Gators have been one of the toughest teams to shoot against this season, so don’t expect the Tigers to get a lot of great looks. However, as one of the better offensive rebounding teams in the country, the Tigers have a chance if they can get put-backs and tip-ins. The key will be the battle down low between Alex Oriakhi and Patric Young so pay close attention to those two big men battling inside. Also, keep an eye on Missouri’s perimeter defense. Florida is taking 40% of its total shots from three — if the Gators’ shooters  are hitting from the outside, it’s going to be tough sledding for Missouri in its first SEC trip to Gainesville.

Oregon at #21 UCLA – 4:00 PM EST, Saturday on CBS (****)

  • The Pac-12 is looking like a three team battle between Arizona, UCLA, and Oregon. With the Ducks already knocking off the Wildcats, they can make a huge statement early in the conference season with a road win against the Bruins. It won’t be easy, however, as UCLA has quietly put together a 10-game winning streak including back-to-back road wins against Utah and Colorado. Keep a close eye on turnovers in this game. Oregon is turning the ball over frequently at a rate of over 21% of its possessions. We have seen road teams get down early recently because of multiple mistakes in a hostile environment. If the Bruins can create turnovers early with some tough defense, it will make things very difficult for the Ducks in Pauley Pavilion. Also, watch the rebounding numbers. The Ducks are a far superior team on the glass at both ends. UCLA’s Kyle Anderson and the Wear brothers need to box out. Rebounding will keep Oregon in the game and could prove to be the difference if they are able to avoid turnovers.

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Kenny Boynton Shoots Florida Out Of a Sluggish Start at Yale

Posted by Dan Lyons on January 7th, 2013

Dan Lyons is an RTC correspondent who also writes for Syracuse blog “Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician.”  You can find him on Twitter @Dan_Lyons76.  He filed this report after Sunday’s match-up between Florida and Yale in New Haven, Connecticut.

Sunday’s trip to New Haven to take on the Yale Bulldogs was supposed to be a homecoming game for Florida senior Erik Murphy, who grew up in nearby South Kingstown, Rhode Island. Unfortunately for Murphy’s New England-based friends and family, he was sidelined with bruised ribs after an injury in practice. Luckily for Gator fans, who flocked to Payne Whitney Gymnasium in what was deemed a sellout by Yale, fellow senior Kenny Boynton put on an incredible performance from deep, sinking 8-of-10 three pointers and finishing with 28 points, tying a career-high. Boynton’s 23-point second half also broke him out of a personal slump, clinching a 79-58 win for Florida against a scrappy-if-overmatched Yale team looking to win back its home court.

Florida guard Kenny Boynton broke Lee Humphrey's school record for made three-pointers with eight shots on Sunday at Yale.  Boynton now has 289 made threes in his career.

Florida guard Kenny Boynton broke Lee Humphrey’s school record for made three-pointers by hitting eight shots on Sunday against Yale. Boynton now has 289 made threes in his career.

From the opening tip, Yale tried to run with Florida, which led to a sloppy and frenetic first half.  The Bulldogs did a decent job breaking the Gator press early, often using center Jeremiah Kreisberg at the half-court line to advance the ball.  However, Florida’s length disrupted Yale’s half-court sets, leading to nine first half turnovers for the Bulldogs. Yale was able to stick around for the first 15 minutes of the game, in large part due to success on the boards where they edged the Gators by one in the first half. Florida also struggled to score outside of the paint early on, and only led by one point with just over five minutes remaining in the half.  Despite keeping the game close, Yale was never able to get its own offense going, shooting 9-of-25 in the first half, and eventually Florida’s star guards took over. The Gators closed the half on a 14-3 run, spurred by a late three-pointer by Boynton, and three successful free throws from freshman Michael Frazier II, who was fouled while shooting a three of his own.

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Resetting the SEC Race: A Look at the Seven “East” Teams

Posted by CNguon on January 4th, 2013

Christian D’Andrea is an SEC Microsite writer and can be found @TrainIsland on Twitter. 

Non-conference play is wrapping up in the Southeastern Conference, and that means that the battle for SEC supremacy is about to begin. We’re two months into the college basketball season, and several teams are vying to be crowned as the SEC’s king. Florida and Missouri have carried the banner early in the season, but a talented program lies in wait in Lexington. Behind them, quietly successful squads like LSU, Ole Miss, Tennessee, and Texas A&M are also waiting to prove that their inflated records aren’t just the products of careful scheduling. This week, we’ll break down how each member of the SEC has started its 2012-13 campaigns, who their key players may be going forward, and whether they can carry their current pace into conference play. Today, we’ll start by looking at the conference known during football season as the SEC East:

Florida – Flaws May be Surfacing; The Gators are 2-2 after a 7-0 Start

  • The Good: The Gators have shown off a balanced attack and are playing great team defense to start their season. Opponents are shooting woefully against them, averaging just 52 points per game through Florida’s first 11 match-ups. No team has scored more than 67 points against UF so far in 2012-13. Kenny Boynton is still around and doing Kenny Boynton things. This can be recorded as either as positive or a negative for the Gators. He’s leading the team in scoring and swagger, but like a 6’2” Antoine Walker he’s shooting over six three-pointers per game and making fewer than 30 percent of them. He’s regressed since a strong junior season, but he’s still clearly this team’s general when it comes down to on-court leadership.

    Erik Murphy has come into his own as a senior (US Presswire)

    Erik Murphy has come into his own as a senior (US Presswire)

  • The Bad: Florida’s balance comes at the expense of not having an alpha dog to take over in tight situations. Boynton’s poor shooting tempers his status as a go-to player, while Erik Murphy and Patric Young have yet to prove themselves as consistent threats when the pressure is on. This is something that could fluster coach Billy Donovan when conference play brings more high-pressure situations.
  • Player to Watch: Erik Murphy. Murphy, the pride of South Kingstown, Rhode Island, has come into his own as a senior, shooting a stellar 57 percent from the field and 45 percent from long range. The 6’10” forward is an inside-out presence who can stretch opposing defenses and use his length to provide passable defense in the interior. His ability to draw defenders away from the hoop helps provide openings for a strong backcourt led by Boynton and Rosario. If he can maintain this level of play, he’ll give the Gators plenty of options on offense.
  • Can it Last? Yes, but… the Gators have been solid and have the talent to make a deep postseason run, but recent losses bring this team’s makeup and stability into question. Florida gave up the comeback of the 2012-13 season so far when turnovers and a missed Boynton free throw helped Arizona overcome a six-point deficit with 57 seconds left in the game. Two games later, they couldn’t get past a sneaky-good Kansas State team in Kansas City. The Gators have all the strength they need to get past the SEC’s lower-level teams, but they’ve still got to prove that they can handle the best the conference has to offer. Their reign at the top of the conference may be short lived.

Missouri – Their Talent Has Led to a 10-2 Record, But Can They Continue to Play as a Team?

  • The Good: Laurence Bowers has returned stronger than ever from last season’s ACL tear, and a Missouri team filled with transfers have helped place the Tigers among the NCAA’s elite in 2013. Jabari Brown (Oregon), Alex Oriakhi (UConn), Earnest Ross (Auburn), and Keion Bell (Pepperdine) have all played well in their new hometown of Columbia, Missouri. The Tigers have nine players that have earned 10 minutes per game or more this year; of those, only Phil Pressey suited up for Mizzou in 2011-12. Point guard Pressey has proven to be an excellent distributor, leading the SEC with 7.3 assists per game. He sprung for an insane 19-of-19 line against UCLA in an overtime loss and has stepped forward as this team’s leader out of the backcourt. Oriakhi has been just as good at Mizzou as he had been at UConn, and Brown has shown off the chops that made him a five-star recruit coming out of high school. A talented roster has given this team a potent inside-out attack and the depth to hang with any opponent they’ll face in 2013. Additionally, they lead the NCAA in rebounds through a dozen games this season, pulling down 47.4 per game. Read the rest of this entry »
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Freeze Frame: The Changing Look of Florida’s Defense

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 18th, 2012

As pointed out in the SEC Morning Five on Monday, Florida did a lot right in its close loss to Arizona on Saturday night. The positive play was overshadowed by the last minute of the game, but one minute of poor execution (REALLY poor execution!) does not a season make. Florida lost a true road game to a top 10 team by one point. In December. Not exactly symbolic of a collapse. But even in allowing 1.12 points per possession against the Wildcats, Florida flexed its muscles on defense. Arizona scored 16 points off the Gators’ 14 turnovers. But when UF was set in its half-court defense, the Wildcats struggled offensively. Not surprising, considering this is statistically the best Florida defensive team of the Billy Donovan era, including his championship teams of the mid-2000s. We looked at the last five years of defensive efficiency for the Gators, and threw in the 2005-06 and 2006-07 champions just for good measure:

Florida's interior defense is among the nation's best.

Florida’s interior defense is among the best in Gators’ history, including the National Championship teams in 2006 and 2007.

The 2012-13 Gators are the best shot-blocking team since Donovan’s two National Championship clubs. They also have the lowest two-point field goal percentage defense, the lowest effective field goal percentage defense, and the highest defensive turnover percentage in the Donovan era. On Saturday night, Florida’s effectiveness was aided by changing its schemes throughout the contest. The Gators employed a man-to-man, 2-3 zone, and full court press, all with varying degrees of success. In this edition of Freeze Frame, we will take a look at what makes Florida’s defense so efficient.

Play 1 — 17:07 remaining in the first half

The Gators go to a man-to-man defense early in the contest. It is easy to see how the presence of shot-blocker extraordinaire Patric Young gives the defenders some leeway. Young is lurking down low in this series of plays ready to pounce on the first offensive player bold enough to challenge him. While Young is the biggest reason Florida’s D is effective, there are several other factors that make this one of the stingiest defenses in the country.

Florida playing a little man to man with a secret weapon in the middle.

Florida playing a little man-to-man with a secret weapon in the middle.

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Set Your DVR: Weekend Edition

Posted by bmulvihill on December 14th, 2012

setDVR

Brendon Mulvihill is the head curator for @SportsGawker and an RTC contributor. You can find him @TheMulv on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

It’s been a slow week in college basketball with students hitting the books and getting through finals week. However, things pick up quite a bit this weekend with some great non-conference action led by a marquee match-up in the desert. Let’s get to the breakdowns.

Game of the Weekend 

#5 Florida at #9 Arizona  10:00 PM EST, Saturday on ESPN (*****)

Patric Young's Offensive Rebounds Are One Way To Get Additional Touches (Getty)

Will Patric Young Dominate the Wildcats Again This Season? (Getty)

  • Florida won the match-up last season with Arizona in a tough overtime battle. The Gators’ Patric Young dominated the game with a career-high 25 points and 10 rebounds on 12-of-15 shooting. Coach Billy Donovan was disappointed the Gator guards did not get Young the ball more often. It will be interesting to see how Arizona responds this season to defending Young. The addition of 7’0″ freshman center Kaleb Tarczewski to the Wildcats line-up should make a significant difference for coach Sean Miller. His size will at least create problems at the basket for the 6’10” Young. Keep a close eye on Florida’s ability to create turnovers as well. It helped them win last season in Gainesville and will be a big factor again. Finally, three-point shooting will play a key role in the outcome of the game. Approximately 40% of Florida’s field goal attempts are from downtown and U of A gives up more treys than two-thirds of the teams in college hoops. You will want to keep an eye on Gator forward Erik Murphy from beyond the arc. He presents a tough match-up with his 6’10” frame and his ability to stroke the three. If Murphy is hitting from downtown, the Wildcats are in deep trouble.
  • Arizona and Florida are both in the top 10 in offensive rebounding percentage. We mentioned Tarczewski’s defense before, but his biggest contribution to this game may be on the offensive boards. He needs to clean up the glass on missed shots to give Arizona as many looks as possible. Miller’s squad got excellent production last year from it’s backcourt against the Gators and need the same from guards Nick Johnson and Mark Lyons this season. Lyon’s needs to be careful of turnovers as he has a sub-one assist-to-turnover ratio. If he isn’t protecting the ball, Arizona will have trouble again this year.
  • Arizona’s size will allow them to compete all game long with a very talented and good shooting Florida squad. Their ability to go big at guard with Kevin Parrom could be the difference in the game. While the jury is still out on the Wildcats, a home game against Florida will be a great barometer for what we can expect in the future. The team that wins the offensive rebounding battle will take this one.

More Great Hoops

#6 Louisville at Memphis  2:30 PM EST, Saturday on Fox College Sports (****)

  • Louisville won this match-up last season in a close eight-point ballgame. This season however they are without star center Gorgui Dieng due to his wrist injury. Dieng went for 14/14 last year and always makes a major impact on defense. Without Dieng manning the middle, Louisville actually lacks size. Duke took advantage of this size deficiency and was able to beat the Cardinals a few weeks ago as a result. Look for Memphis to try to do the same thing at home this Saturday. Memphis is tall on the inside and a good offensive rebounding team. They are not as good at getting to the free throw line, however, which is also how the Blue Devils beat the Cardinals. Memphis ranks #307 nationally in free throw rate. Guard play from the Tigers will be a key factor in this contest. They need to get to the line and not turn the ball over. In their blowout win against an Ohio team known for turning teams over, the Tigers only committed miscues on over 16% of their possessions. A lot has to go right for the Tigers to pull an upset here, but with Dieng out, this is their best opportunity.

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SEC M5: 12.14.12 Edition

Posted by Brian Joyce on December 14th, 2012

SEC_morning5

  1. Billy “the Kid” is far from a youngster, as Donovan is the elder statesman of the SEC after 17 seasons with the Florida Gators. While he is an accomplished coach at the college level, he hasn’t shut the door on coaching in the NBA. “The one thing that I think is always intriguing the older I get is the fact that (the NBA) is just all about basketball. I love the practices, I love the games, I love doing individual instruction and breaking down tape and game planning and doing those things.” Donovan infamously left for the Orlando Magic in 2007 before ultimately returning to the Gators. Could a third National Championship complete this chapter of the book for Billy Donovan? It certainly isn’t out of the question though Donovan is under contract through 2015-16.
  2. Will Florida go with a three-guard lineup? Or will it go big with a stronger frontline? Will the Gators play man-to-man defense? Or will they use their effective 2-3 zone? Florida’s versatility is one of its strengths as it prepares to travel to a top 10 team in Arizona. “There are some games where we’ve played small and moved (Erik) Murphy to the five (center) and (Casey) Prather to the four (power forward),” Donovan said. “I think a lot of it depends on fatigue, foul trouble, match-ups with the other team. So I think in certain situations a smaller lineup can look good, and in certain situations a bigger lineup can look good. I think it depends on what’s really going on during the game.” Arizona’s rather large frontcourt may dictate how the Gators play on Saturday. Patric Young, Florida’s starting center, stands at just 6’9″, but will be matched up with 7’0″ Wildcat freshman Kaleb Tarczewski. Donovan has to hope his team’s experience will win out over size.
  3. Many have compared the 2012-13 Kentucky Wildcats to the 2010-11 version — after a slow start and multiple losses on the road, the Brandon Knight-led Kentucky team went to the Final Four in Houston only to lose to the eventual champs, Connecticut. But who can remember two years ago? Do the Cats compare to any teams from last year? Our friends at A Sea of Blue think the 2011-12 Florida Gators are the best comparison. By the end of December, the Gators had three losses including understandable road defeats to Ohio State and Syracuse, but also a puzzling loss to Rutgers, a team outside the top 100 (KenPom’s rankings). Florida eventually marched all the way to the Elite Eight before a loss to Final Four-bound Louisville. Kentucky fans might be pretty satisfied with that fate come March, with the exception of the whole losing to Louisville thing.
  4. The hits keep on coming for the Alabama Crimson Tide, as the team has suffered another injury. This time, senior guard Andrew Steele is out four to six weeks with hernia surgery. This isn’t the first time Steele has had to deal with injuries. “He’s had his share of different injuries and different things that have come up over his career,” head coach Anthony Grant said. “He is looking forward to getting himself back to where he is able to play again and able to impact the game and help his teammates. I’m sure that he’ll do everything he can to recover as quickly as he can.” Steele is averaging just 4.2 points per game, but provides depth for Grant on what is becoming a very thin bench.
  5. Coach Sean Miller has built Arizona into a national powerhouse once again. And the SEC’s Missouri Tigers are right there with the Wildcats. Luckily for college basketball fans who prefer quality basketball games in November and December rather than media stunts driven to draw TV attention, Arizona and Missouri have agreed to play a home-and-home series beginning in 2015-16. “This is a great series and will generate the type of national exposure fans and programs want early in the college basketball season,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “I have so much respect for Sean Miller and the Arizona program, and when you get two national brands playing in on-campus settings it’s great for all of college basketball.” Want to generate interest in college basketball prior to New Year’s Day? Continue to play games like this.
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SEC M5: 12.04.12 Edition

Posted by DPerry on December 4th, 2012

  1. Florida may be without break-out forward Erik Murphy this Wednesday when the Gators travel to Tallahassee to take on Florida State. Murphy suffered a “bad hip pointer” against Marquette in the SEC/Big East Challenge, and hasn’t yet fully recovered. The senior forward made national headlines after a 10-10 shooting performance against Wisconsin earlier this season, and while he’s slowed down since, he still serves as the Gators primary frontcourt scoring option. In the event of his absence, Patric Young should be handed some greater offensive responsibility. The available minutes from Scottie Wilbekin’s early-season suspension seem to have provided Mike Rosario with invaluable confidence in his second season in Gainesville, and maybe Murphy’s brief absence can do the same for Young.
  2. In another in-state, out-of-conference SEC showdown this week, Georgia takes on rival Georgia Tech tonight, with the visiting Bulldogs desperate for a win. Mark Fox’s crew has only tallied victories against Jacksonville and East Tennessee State so far this season, doing very little to cool the coach’s hot seat. “It’s easy to be frustrated, in any endeavor that you have,” Fox said. “It’s your reaction to frustration that’s really critical. I think we are improving, I think we’re getting better in certain areas. I want it to be faster than it has, but we are where we are. We’ve gotta keep focusing on it and get better.” An inept offense is the primary culprit for Georgia’s struggles. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is the only legitimate scorer on the roster, but he’s shooting the ball at well under 40% from the field. No other player averages more than nine points per game, and until a reliable second option emerges, Caldwell-Pope will continue to be forced into taking bad shots.
  3. On Monday, LSU’s Shavon Coleman was named SEC Player of the Week. Coleman put on a second-half show when the Tigers hosted Seton Hall this past Thursday, scoring 14 of his 18 points as LSU overcame a 16-point deficit to beat the Pirates. The JuCo transfer also added six rebounds, three steals, and two blocks on the night. The undersized forward has combined with Johnny O’Bryant III to form a lethal rebounding tandem, a big reason why the Tigers are ranked 15th in the nation in rebounding rate.
  4. Frank Martin’s career at South Carolina hasn’t gotten off to the smoothest of starts, but NBC Sports’ Vin Parise warns against impatience. Martin took over a shaky program at Kansas State and had the Wildcats playing in the Elite Eight within three seasons. Jacob Pullen, a middling recruit, blossomed into a superstar under the tutelage of the fiery coach. His coaching style is certainly abrasive, but his track record of success in Manhattan, Kansas, is tough to ignore. An early season loss to Elon is never a good sign for an SEC team, though it’s far from the worst loss that the conference has endured. Big success isn’t in the cards for Martin in his first season, but a repeat finish at the bottom of the SEC seems unlikely as they’ll face stiff competition from a number of other teams in the conference.
  5. Monday’s new AP poll featured a little bit of history. Kentucky, ranked #8 last week, can no longer be found in the Top 25, the largest single-week drop in the history of the rankings. It also marked the first time that the Wildcats aren’t represented in the poll since John Calipari took over in Lexington. How much has the college basketball landscape changed since the last time Kentucky wasn’t in the AP poll? At the end of the 2008-09 season, LSU was the SEC’s lone representative in the Top 25, while current ACC doormat Wake Forest was ranked #8.
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