Comes now an opportunity for Kentucky. Having wasted so many this year, they need to treat this one like the precious jewel it is.
Florida comes into Kentucky with a one-game lead in the East, just one game ahead of Tennessee, South Carolina and Kentucky. A victory by the 'Cats would leave a four-way tie for first in the East, but there are a lot of games yet to be played. Even a loss tonight would not doom UK's chances to win the East, but it would deal them a major setback and would substantially increase the success they would need in the rest of the season to make the NCAA tournament at all.
A victory would turn the Wildcats' fortunes back around for the time being, and place them back in good standing, but still with some work remaining between now and the SEC tournament in Atlanta.
Player Stats: Florida
Player Stats: Kentucky
Team Stats Comparison (Courtesy of Kenpom.com)
|Adj. Efficiency:||107.1 ||88.4 ||114.8 ||95.6 ||100.7|
|Adj. Tempo:||69.7 ||67.5 ||66.9|
|Effective FG%:||54.2 ||43.1 ||55.8 ||49.3 ||48.9|
|Turnover %:||24.5 ||20.2 ||18.3 ||22.7 ||20.8|
|Off. Reb. %:||34.9 ||30.2 ||33.6 ||31.9 ||33.1|
|FTA/FGA:||43.0 ||31.7 ||32.5 ||30.9 ||36.4|
|3P%:||34.6 ||34.4 ||36.8 ||34.2 ||34.1|
|2P%:||55.3 ||38.8 ||56.2 ||48.2 ||47.8|
|FT%:||79.2 ||67.6 ||68.8 ||61.1 ||68.6|
|Block%:||8.1 ||17.9 ||8.2 ||7.6 ||8.9|
|Steal%:||10.9 ||9.0 ||9.2 ||12.2 ||10|
|3PA/FGA:||30.3 ||33.4 ||36.5 ||34.5 ||33|
|A/FGM:||62.3 ||43.3 ||61.0 ||52.4 ||54.1|
|Point Distribution (% of total points)|
|3-Pointers:||22.0 ||32.0 ||30.1 ||30.1 ||27.5|
|2-Pointers:||54.1 ||48.1 ||53.2 ||53.8 ||52.1|
|Free Throws:||23.9 ||19.9 ||16.7 ||16.1 ||20.3|
|Strength of Schedule|
|Components:||102.4 ||100.8 ||100.4 ||100.8 ||100.7|
|Overall:||0.5446 ||0.4886 ||0.5|
|Non-conference:||0.4297 ||0.3372 ||0.5|
|Bench Minutes:||29.2% ||29.8% ||31.10%|
|Experience:||1.34 yrs ||1.12 yrs ||1.66|
|Effective Height:||+1.6 ||+2.2 ||0|
|Average Height:||78.7" ||77.2" ||76.5"|
Florida is a talented team with plenty of size, but very little overall strength and experience.
Florida's back court is among the most solid in the SEC, starting with sophomore point guard Nick Calathes. Calathes is a tall "lead" guard who initiates most of the offense. He can dribble, drive and shoot the three. He is not great at getting his own shot but is so clever with the ball he can get one if he needs it. His backcourt mate, Walter Hodge, is a senior and a solid player in his own right, able to make shots and get to the rim. Florida's back court is among the deadliest from three point range in the conference.
The front court will likely consist of sophomore power forward Alex Tyus, sophomore forward Chandler Parsons and junior forward Dan Werner. Werner and Parsons are both capable of scoring inside and out, and Tyus is mostly an inside player. Neither Parsons nor Werner are overly athletic, but Tyus is, and although he doesn't have the strength, skill or bulk of Patrick Patterson, he is a very capable and improving player. Of the other two forwards, Chandler Parsons is by far the most dynamic and dangerous offensively.
Kenny Kadji is a freshman big man who gives Florida a good big option inside. He is as big and even a little taller than Patterson, but slower and less athletic. But he is a space eater who can get the job done inside. Erving Walker is a tiny (5'8") spark plug of a guard off the bench who has amazing quickness and speed, and is a dangerous matchup problem for Kentucky. Think a stronger and more explosive Devan Downey with a bit less overall skill. Ray Shipman helps out on the wing and is more of a slasher. Allan Chaney, another big forward, is injured and likely out for tonight.
Florida's main strengths are three point shooting, offensive efficiency and forcing turnovers. They take good care of the basketball, but do not rebound particularly well either offensively or defensively. Kentucky is a vastly superior defensive team, particularly against the two point shot, but Florida shoots a high percentage of their shots from three, and we all know that UK has been burned a lot from three point range this year.
Four factors analysis:
- eFG%: Advantage Florida on offense and Kentucky on defense.
- Turnover%: Advantage Florida on both offense and defense
- Offensive Rebound %: Advantage Kentucky on offense and defense.
- FT Attempts/FG Attempt: Kentucky on offense, Florida on defense.
This is a matchup between two very even teams that basically have different strengths -- Kentucky's strengths are defensive and Florida's strengths are offensive. Kentucky appears to have a slightly larger edge, but paper edges mean nothing, as they also had edges over the last three teams they played, and we saw how that went.
Kentucky will face a variety of defenses tonight, but probably more zone than man to man, although you can never say for sure with Donovan, because like his mentor, Rick Pitino, Billy D. likes to mix it up on defense. UK will see some match-up zone and quite possibly some junk like a box and one.
Offensively, Kentucky must get the ball to Patterson, and force the defense to collapse. That will happen, and Patterson will hit open shooters. The question is, will any of them shoot, and if they do, will they make them? Jodie Meeks will likely be taken away as much as possible, and Florida has the size and quickness to do it. If Kentucky continues to do what they have been doing the last three games, the odds of them winning this one are long, indeed.
Defensively, Kentucky must guard the three much better than they have in the last three games. If they fail to do this, it will take a superhuman effort by both Meeks and Patterson to overcome the scoring Florida can do. Florida will run, and they will shoot in transition and make shots. Kentucky will need to play Suffocats-style defense to stop the Gators, and the 'Cats have not done that against a talented team all year.
Although I like the matchups better in this game than in the last three, Florida is a vastly superior offensive team if they are able to hamper Meeks and Patterson as the last three teams have done. If they can't, this could be a convincing victory for Kentucky, because nobody on Florida's team can handle those two guys one-on-one. But Billy D. knows this, and he knows that UK is vulnerable to denying Meeks the ball and collapsing on Patterson. He believes, and so do I, that UK's other players cannot beat him.
Bottom line -- UK is on a precipice. If all Gillispie did was try to convince them to play harder, our chances of victory are less than 50%. If the 'Cats have some new wrinkles to free up our scorers and play solid 3-point defense, our chances go way up. You can never tell about Gillispie, so I have no prediction. Just nerves.