Thursday, March 15, 2012
game preview: Florida
Date/Time: Friday, March 16; 2:10
Record against the Gators: 1-0
Last matchup: UVA 62, UF 56; 3/30/92; New York City (1992 NIT semifinals)
Last game: NCSt. 67, UVA 64 (3/9); UK 74, UF 71 (3/10)
Opposing blogs: Alligator Army
UVA: 60.4 (#339)
UF: 64.9 (#234)
UVA: 104.8 (#104)
UF: 120.8 (#2)
UVA: 87.0 (#5)
UF: 98.5 (#121)
UVA: .8706 (#26)
UF: .8898 (#19)
Projected starting lineups:
PG: Jontel Evans (7.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 3.8 apg)
SG: Sammy Zeglinski (8.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.6 apg)
SF: Joe Harris (11.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.8 apg)
PF: Mike Scott (18.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.2 apg)
F: Akil Mitchell (4.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 0.8 apg)
PG: Erving Walker (12.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.7 apg)
SG: Kenny Boynton (16.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.5 apg)
SF: Bradley Beal (14.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.2 apg)
PF: Erik Murphy (10.7 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.9 apg)
C: Patric Young (10.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.2 apg)
This is the part where normally I rattle on about What This Means, but it's the NCAA tournament - and the first tournament game in the history of this blog - so you already know most of it. Do we really, in our heart of hearts, expect to make a tournament run to the Final Four? No. Injuries and other forms of attrition have ravaged this team to the point where its competitiveness has been sapped to exhaustion. The fact that anyone even gives them a chance against this, one of the elite offensive teams in the country, is a testament to their resilience.
Getting a win here wouldn't necessarily make this team any more likely to win the whole shebang. Mathematically, sure; realistically, no. But it would leave a very positive taste in everyone's mouth. Lose here and the season's legacy is a massive, galactical what-could've-been. But a win would give these guys the signature victory they could never quite achieve in ACC play, and allow a warm, fuzzy glow to settle on the offseason.
-- UVA on offense
For a couple different reasons, this game could be quite a bit higher-scoring than we're used to. One of them is that Florida will probably let us get away with it. According to KenPom, Florida is a worse defensive team than Georgia Tech, one of only two ACC games in which we scored 70+ points.
Florida is also undersized. Their guards don't come any bigger than 6'3", and point guard Erving Walker is only 5'8". Nobody is taller than 6'10", and that player, Erik Murphy, is not an inside banger at the four. Patric Young, at center, is a beefy 6'9", and will probably be Mike Scott's primary defender. Nobody on Florida is going to be that long, athletic type that can give the Hoos problems on the perimeter; this is how teams like UNC and FSU limited our offense.
Open shots should be available; the question is making them. Joe Harris will likely be guarded by Bradley Beal, who is worlds more athletic than Harris, but three inches shorter. Sammy Zeglinski should also be able to find room against the unaggressive Kenny Boynton. With Will Yeguete out, the Gators are missing likely their best defensive weapon.
When it comes to fouls, only Young is especially prone to them, unless you count bit player Casey Prather, who will foul when he's in the game, which is rarely. Mike Scott's veteran wiles may very well find a way to relegate Young to the bench early. If that happens, maybe we see more of Prather who in turn will also foul more creating a vicious cycle etc. etc. Best-case scenario. Florida's guards, however, foul very rarely, so it's only in the frontcourt where free-throw opportunities can reliably be found.
Ultimately, I expect the Hoos to find room to work, a luxury they haven't had against the better teams in the ACC. They must knock down shots. A shooting duel will inevitably turn out badly, because the Gators will knock down shots, so the Hoos have got to hit the available ones.
-- UVA on defense
This is the real strength-on-strength matchup: KenPom's #2 offensive team vs. his #5 defensive one. People tend to assume Florida likes to play an up-tempo, fast-paced game, but that's not the case; they're just really, really efficient.
Their two frontcourt starters are probably underused in this regard. Erik Murphy is a stretch-the-floor four, and I expect Akil Mitchell to guard him; Mitchell's athleticism will be an asset in chasing him around the court. Murphy is an excellent three-point shooter. Patric Young is a big, beefy guy, excellent on the interior, and better than a 60% shooter.
Florida has excellent scoring balance. There's no one player you can key on. Point guard Erving Walker has a minimal hand in running the offense, relative to the typical point guard; he does lead the team in assists, but shutting him down doesn't necessarily mean shutting down the offense. Bradley Beal and Kenny Boynton are just as adept at getting the ball to teammates.
Even so, hopefully Jontel Evans can handle Walker. He's managed to lay a smackdown on diminutive point guards before, but they still sometimes get the better of him. Sammy Z's underrated defensive skills will be desperately needed on Boynton, a deadeye shot from three who doesn't turn the ball over.
The real matchup, though, is system vs. system. It's the pack-line vs. Florida's three-bombing. If the defenders can close out on shooters and still deny the interior, Florida will have a long day. If not, it'll rain up in heah. This just isn't the kind of team you can allow to shoot and cross your fingers, because if one guy goes cold, the next guy won't.
In 1992, the Hoos were NIT champions. Florida was the semifinal opponent before Bryant Stith, Junior Burrough, Cory Alexander, and company moved on to defeat Notre Dame and claim a banner. The Gators had something called a "Svein Dyrkolbotn" on the roster.
That was almost 20 years ago; these two teams haven't met since. The tables are turned now; the deeper, more talented roster belongs to Florida. Let's hope the outcome isn't the same. A lot of focus has been on UVA's uninspiring results down the stretch (it's not like we've played worse - obnoxiously, no nod is ever given to the fact that the team is a walking ICU) but the truth is that, given space to work on offense, UVA has responded. That'll be the case here. Win or lose, expect a big game from Mike Scott, who surely will be feeling the mortality of his college career breathing down his neck. I think, with some trepidation but I think, that the Hoos will live to play another day.
-- Final score: UVA 68, UF 64