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

KenPom breakdown:

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.

-- Outlook
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


Anonymous said...

I'm excited. When I first saw Florida as the opponent, I thought, dangit.

The more I looked a the bracket, though, this is as good a match-up for us out of other teams in this range. We'll need to get back on defense and hit some three's, but they don't have a lot of size that it would be a concern to us, and they don't have tall, rangy wing players that could cause some match-up problems.

We've got to establish tempo. If that means giving up offensive rebounds to hurry back defensively, okay. Here's hoping Akil/Darion/Mike can handle Patric Young enough that our guards can be aggressive in protecting against the three. Gotta pass well. At the end of the day, on the offensive side of the ball, we need either Sammy or Joe to hit shots (preferably both). We also need Paul/Darion to give us useful minutes (doesn't mean they need to have a good statistical game, just need to make sure that them being the game doesn't cause a slippage in play).

Either way, we're back in the tourny, and the long run future of the program looks bright.

Anonymous said...

That NIT championship victory over Notre Dame was, of course, not even close to the most memorable Stith-vs-Notre-Dame game in history. That honor goes to the regular season game in which Stith scored all 17 of the team's points in the final 3 minutes (!) to lead Virginia to a one-point comeback victory over the Fighting Irish. I've never before or since seen anything like it. It was mind-blowing.

I may be a bit biased because his years at UVA coincided with mine, so I got to follow his career closely, but I think Stith is the best player UVA has ever had. With all due respect to Ralph and Buzzy. Can't wait to relive some of those memories (and make some new ones) when the next generation of Stiths comes to town.

And oh yeah, the game today. I expect Scott and Jontel to light it up. I just hope we can rattle Florida's shooters. Go Hoos!

Anonymous said...

tough, tough day for the 'hoos yesterday. wolverines lost too. those games sucked balls.

Anonymous said...

At the end of the day, it was a good season. The one thing that really hurt was that we never really developed a guy who could attack the rim. I had hopes that KT Harrell could be that guy, that creator which could open up the floor. Without that, the inside/out game just didn't have enough spacing at times.

Along with that, we only had one good on-ball defender. Jontel can contain a small guard as good as anyone, but the lack of wing talent to play shutdown on-the-ball defense really hurt.

Looking forward to next year, the loss of Mike Scott will obviously hurt, and the squad next year will be lacking in size (Tobey's tall, but by most accounts, needs to add weight, Nolte will probably be a 3 masquerading as a 4 and Atkins/Mitchell are already smallish 4's to begin with). The athleticism that Jones and Anderson bring to the table could be a nice asset, and a healthy Brogdon could help. We should be more perimeter oriented, although we'll need Jesperson/Nolte/Harris to hit the 3's to provide spacing. I can see Bennett going small at times, and playing Harris at the 4, as he did in his freshman year.

I hope Bennett will extend the rotation to 10. Jones needs to play because we need that 2nd quick, small guard. Anderson's talent seems like it'll force it's way on, and we need Tobey for size. The only possible redshirt, to me, seems to be Nolte, but he'd be a nice depth piece to have some 3/4 action.

Really hoping for a big, burly post player in the 2013 class (to go along with perhaps a combo guard and/or Brandan Stith, if they change their mind on adding a wing).

Anonymous said...

Btw, quick note on UVA baseball, but when is it time to ask if Chris Taylor should be moved off short? Errors aren't the end all and be as a sign on defensive ability, but still, 8 errors already this early in the year?

Granted, there's the question of who to take his spot, as Bruno has had some issues at 3rd (but then again, he isn't a natural at 3rd). I still wonder if UVA's best alignment isn't to have Bruno at short with Taylor at 2nd or CF.