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A Look Ahead: (3) Florida Gators

If Michigan makes it past Kansas in the Sweet Sixteen, the Gators could loom large as the last roadblock to a Final Four trip.


(Part of our let's-not-jinx-it preview series of the second weekend)

Don't let the three-seed fool you, Florida is playing some of the best basketball in the nation, at least by Kenpom standards. His overall rankings have Florida first, and the Gators are third in adj O (119.4) and second in adj D (83.4). Despite these lofty statistical rankings, At 28-7, Florida has the resume of a two- or three-seed. The Gators have two non-conference losses, one at Arizona and another at a neutral site vs. Kansas State.

The weak SEC schedule also led to a few more losses than anyone would have pegged the Gators for. Arkansas was first, building a big lead that was eventually whittled away. Then Tennessee and Missouri won close games before Kentucky capped the season with an upset win over Florida. The Gators then lost the SEC tournament final to Ole Miss. Florida lost four of its last nine down the stretch.

The Team

The reason Florida could lose so many games and still be a statistical darling is that the Gators really took care of business in their wins, averaging a scoring margin of 18 points per game. The SEC isn't strong, but beating most of the conference like a red-headed stepchild makes it easy to overlook.

Why is Florida such a complete team? A good deal amount of it has to do with just how experienced and deep the team is. Florida's rotation goes eight deep and includes three seniors, four juniors, and a freshman. Four of the starters have usage rates greater than 20% and ORtgs that top 110.0. Unsuprisingly, all four of them average double figures.

Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario roam the backcourt and are both capable scorers. Both are capable 3pt shooters (32 and 35 percent respectively), but Boynton is better with ball control while Rosario is the better all around shooter (eFG% 52.3).

Inside Florida is even stronger, with Kenpom POY candidate Erik Murphy, a 6'10 post player that can shoot from outside (46%, 152 3PA) and crash the defensive boards (DR% 17.5). He is the inside outside threat, where Patric Young, Florida's other post threat is more of a traditional inside player. He boasts a top-100 OR% (12.7) and Blk% (7.2), has hit 60 percent of his 244 FGA (0 3PA), and is the best player on the team at getting to the line (4.6 fouls/40 minutes).

The last starter is point guard Scottie Wilbekin. He averages just under 10 points per game and adds five assists per game, and he is dangerous on threes if left open (36%, 99 3PA). Junior forward Will Yeguete and wings Casey Prather and Michael Frazier round out the rotation. Yeguete is a very good rebounder, while Frazier, the only freshman, mostly shoots from outside.

Keys to their game

The thing about Florida is that they are just so well rounded. This is a team that is fifth in the nation in both eFG% and eFG% allowed. Of the four factors for both offense and defense (eFG%, OR%, TO%, FTA/FGA), the only one that Florida isn't ranked in Kenpom's top 100 is Off. FTA/FGA. None of this is all that surprising given the level of experience and talent on this team, but it makes it hard to pick out just what Florida is good at.

One area is outside shooting. The Gators take 40 percent of their shots from behind the arc, and they hit at a team rate of 38 percent (20th nationally).

The biggest stylistic factor that jumps off the page is pace. The Gators play at a slow one. Just 62.2 possessions per game, which ranks 302 nationally and gives a good broad-stroke view of what Florida's game plan is: slow things down, limit possessions, and expect that your guys are going to be better than the other guys. Florida used this strategy to beat Wisconsin by almost 20 points.

Of course, there is no blueprint for beating the Gators. Speeding the game up has worked (Ark won on 70 possessions, and Ole Miss won on 67) but Florida lost to both Arizona and Kansas St. on low possession games (58 and 61 respectively). There is no blueprint because Florida is too deep, talented, and experienced, and teams like that don't get thrown off easy.


Florida is a hard team to gauge. The Gators are a statistically dominant team that has still lost a number of winnable games to mediocre competition. The Gators didn't play a very tough schedule by big program standards, and they had a relatively easy conference slate (at least compared to the Big Ten or Big East).

Michigan has played very well the last two games, and to have a chance to even play Florida the Wolverines will have to continue that trend. Michigan's offense is good, and its ability to push the ball in transition could open the game up some. However, Michigan still needs an answer for Florida's offense, one that doesn't end with Glenn Robinson III covering Erik Murphy.

Florida looks capable of challenging all of Michigan's weaknesses: its problems defending in the post, allowing open threes, and not rebounding well against bigger teams. Michigan counters with an efficient offense, an emerging Mitch McGary, and the best player in college basketball, Trey Burke.

If this one happens Sunday, Florida will have the edge, but Michigan will certainly have a chance.