Record: 36-2 (18-0 in SEC)
Second Round: Defeated No. 16 Albany 67-55
Third Round: Defeated No. 9 Pittsburgh 61-45
Sweet 16: Defeated No. 4 UCLA 79-68
Elite 8: Defeated No. 11 Dayton 62-52
One of the favorites to win the National Championship once the brackets were released, the Florida Gators ride a 30 game winning streak into Dallas at the Final Four. Now that the Final Four is set, I think it is safe to say that the Gators are the clear favorite to win it all amongst the four teams. During the Tournament so far, Florida has not blown out anyone but has won comfortably, winning by double digits in each game.
The only two losses Florida has suffered this year were both in the nonconference portion of their schedule and both to teams that are in the Final Four right now. The Gators first loss of the season came at the hands of Wisconsin, a 59-53 loss. With senior guard Scottie Wilbekin serving a suspension, sophomore guard Michael Frazier II led the way with 20 points going 5-for-7 from three in the losing effort. In a game that we have watched highlights of countless times, Florida’s second and final loss came at the hands of our UConn Huskies. With Florida still not at full strength, Shabazz Napier hit a free throw line jumper at the buzzer to beat the Gators 65-64. Senior Forward Casey Prather led the way with 19 points, but while Wilbekin was back for that game, he went down with an injury late in the game and wasn't on the court for the final minutes.
In the conference portion of their schedule, the Gators ran the table in the SEC going 18-0 before winning three games in the conference tournament to claim both the regular season and tournament championships. In the regular season, Florida defeated Kentucky twice by an average of 14.5 points. In the game at Kentucky, Casey Prather poured in 24 points on 8-for-9 shooting while Wilbekin added 23 points in a 69-59 win. In the win at home, senior center Patric Young asserted his dominance inside scoring 18 points with 7 rebounds. In the SEC Championship game, the Gators again met up with Kentucky, only winning 61-60 behind Frazier’s 4-for-6 three-point shooting. Florida went 8-for-19 from three in the entire game.
Statistically, Florida does not put up that impressive of offensive numbers as they rank 181st in the nation in PPG with 71.0 and 131st in the nation in RPG with 35.6. They also average 13.4 APG as a team for 117th in the nation while shooting 46.3 percent from the field, which is good enough for 74th in the nation. All year Florida has relied on its defense to win games, and it shows as they only allow 57.6 PPG which ranks 3rd in the nation.
Florida has seven players who really play 20+ minutes and we will take a look at those seven right now (It’s a lot, but it’s the Final Four):
# 5 Scottie Wilbekin, Senior, G, (6-2, 176 pounds): The SEC player of the year is one of the best on-ball defensive players in the nation while he also averages 13.4 PPG, 2nd on the team. He also leads the team in APG at 3.7 and SPG with 1.6. Wilbekin is a threat from three-point as he is shooting 39.6 percent on the year. In their meeting on December 2nd, he scored 15 points against UConn before leaving with an injury. Wilbekin is averaging 16.8 PPG so far in the tournament and is 9-for-24 from three.
# 4 Patric Young, Senior, C, (6-9, 240 pounds of pure muscle): One of the strongest players in the game of basketball, he is Florida’s 4th and final double digit scorer at 10.8 PPG while also pulling down 6.2 RPG which is 2nd on the team. Young shoots an impressive 54.1 percent from the field and he loves that hook shot. In their meeting with UConn in the regular season, he dominated inside scoring 17 points with 7 rebounds (Olander actually played good defense on him). Young is averaging 8.3 PPG and 6.8 RPG in the tournament.
#24 Casey Prather, Senior, F, (6-6, 212 pounds): A player who only averaged 6.2 PPG last season, he leads the Gators in scoring at 13.8 PPG while also averaging 4.9 RPG. Prather shoots at an extremely high percentage from the field at 60.3 percent. Against UConn, he led the way with 19 points and 7 rebounds. Prather is averaging 10.5 PPG and 4.5 RPG in the tournament so far.
#20 Michael Frazier II, Sophomore, G, (6-4, 199 pounds): In my opinion he is the person who I am most scared of in this game. Frazier is 3rd on the team in scoring at 12.6 PPG while also pulling down 3.5 RPG. He is by far the Gators' biggest three-point threat as he leads the team in all three-point categories going 117-for-261 on the year for 44.8 percent. In the game against UConn in the regular season, he only scored 7 points but is averaging 10.5 PPG in the tournament and is 10-for-26 from deep. He can heat up in a hurry.
# 10 Dorian Finney-Smith, Sophomore, F, (6-8, 212 pounds): A transfer from Virginia Tech and Florida’s sixth man, he leads the team in rebounding at 6.7 a game while also scoring 8.9 PPG. While his three-point numbers aren’t great, he does shoot the three often as he is 30-for-109 for 30.0 percent from deep. Finney-Smith only scored 3 points and recorded 6 rebounds in the loss to UConn earlier this season. He is averaging 8.8 PPG and 6.5 RPG this tournament.
#15 Will Yeguete, Senior, F, (6-8, 230 pounds): A native of France, he is Florida’s 5th starter due to his big frame and rebounding ability. He only averages 5.0 PPG while recording 5.2 RPG which is 3rd on the team. In the regular season game against UConn, Yeguete only scored 3 points with 2 rebounds. He is averaging 5.5 PPG and 4.8 RPG this tournament.
#0 Kasey Hill, Freshman, G, (6-1, 181 pounds): A McDonald’s All-American, he has played significant minutes during Florida’s 30 game-winning streak and is averaging 5.5 PPG and 3.2 APG which is 2nd on the team. Hill was sidelined with an injury for the UConn game. He is averaging 5.3 PPG and 3.8 APG in the tournament.
Florida is coached by Billy Donovan who is in his 18th year where he has compiled a 451-168 record. He has made the NCAA Tournament 14 times and has made it to at least the Sweet 16 eight times. Donovan won back-to-back National Championships in 2006 and 2007. Before Florida, he was the head coach at Marshall for two years where he went 35-20 but did not make the postseason. Before Marshall, Donovan was an assistant under Rick Pitino from 1989-1994. He also played under Pitino at Providence and led them to the Final Four in 1987.