#15 University of Florida Gators
Head Coach: Billy Donovan (455-187)
3 Final Fours, 2 National Championships
KenPom Ratings: Overall- 12th Offense- 29th Defense- 13th
Will Yeguete (#15) F 6-8 230 Sr. 5.4/5.1
Casey Prather (#24) F 6-6 212 Sr. 19.1/5.7
Patric Young (#4) C 6-9 240 Sr. 9.3/5.0
Scottie Wilbekin (#5) G 6-2 176 Sr. 9.5/7.5a
Michael Frazier II (#20) G 6-4 199 So. 14.4/3.3
This is the big one. UConn faces their biggest test so far this season with the 15th ranked Florida Gators rolling into to Storrs to play in the unfriendly confines of Harry A. Gampel Pavilion. This will be the second meeting ever between these two programs. In fact, our own Head Coach Kevin Ollie actually played in the first one- a Sweet Sixteen overtime loss in 1994 NCAA Tournament.
So far this year in three games against what I would call ‘quality opponents' UConn has managed three wins by a combined margin of four points. Despite a flair for the dramatic, and a penchant for stretches of lackadaisical play, the Huskies should be lauded for coming out from all three of those games with the win. No matter which way you cut it, it's still a W.
But while Indiana may have just popped into the Top 25, and BC may be on the up and up, and Maryland is decent at best, this is a Florida team which started the season in the top 10. At 6-1 Florida's lone loss on the season was game number two against a ranked Wisconsin team that is currently 8-0 with quality wins over St. Louis and West Virginia since. The Gators are just coming off a one point win against Florida State, an ugly affair which they won on the strength of 20 offensive rebounds (!) and great team defense. Make no mistake, Billy Donovan's athletic bunch is easily our toughest opponent of this young season. Donovan has coached two (consecutive) national championship teams and actually played for Rick Pitino's Providence team that miraculously made the 1987 Final Four. Later on, he assistant coached under Pitino at Kentucky, so from a coaching standpoint this will also be a very interesting match-up.
The first thing that stands out about Florida is their experience, with four seniors in their starting lineup led by G/F Casey Prather's 19.1 points per game. Sophomore Guard Michael Frazier II, the lone underclassmen starter, is their second leading scorer, shooting 53% from three point range. Like the Indiana game, it would be great if the Huskies could keep their opponents' top two scorers in check tonight. Sophomore Forward Dorian Finney Smith comes off the bench but gets pretty solid minutes and is actually their third leading scorer behind those two.
The Huskies stand at 7-0 after a workmanlike performance at home to beat Loyola of Maryland. The story of that game was DeAndre Daniels' amazing second half to end the game with 21 points and 8 rebounds after going into the break with 3 and 0. We also got solid performances from Ryan Boatright and Phillip Nolan, while Niels Giffey and Lasan Kromah were amazing off the bench. In addition to Daniels' breakout performance, it was very encouraging to see Shabazz take a backseat on the scoring front. I believe that the most dangerous thing about this Huskies team is it's balance and the fact that there are three or even four players (‘Bazz, Boat, D, Calhoun) who are legitimate threats to score any time they have the ball. This prevents opponents from keying on a particular player and killing offensive rhythm. Obviously Shabazz is the lifeblood of this team, but hopefully over the course of the season we see more games like Loyola where others lead the charge.
I think the business-like approach the Huskies took against Loyola was indicative of the nature of that game as a tune-up. We needed to come out of that with an uneventful, casual win, and we did. I think we win today, and here's why. I'm getting the sense that Kevin Ollie's team is starting to figure things out offensively. I've always felt like the defense was mostly crisp, but it's great to see that we've moved away from the eternally frustrating "passing around the perimeter and watch Shabazz" offense. They're starting to figure out their teammates, how to get everybody involved and not force the issue, and to drive to the basket when the opponent gives it to you. We also have great bench players- I absolutely LOVED Lasan Kromah's defense and noted a number of times where he stymied simple outlet passes by hustling his way into passing lanes. Niels Giffey- keep doing you, man. I have feelings for this team that I have never had for any Huskies squad seven games into the season, and I think we make a big statement by winning in front of a raucous home crowd at Gampel, 64-60.
Now if you'll excuse us, me and this print out of the roster are about to go get a room.