Long have we suffered at the hands of the Gators. Long. For five long years, and the last ten meetings, Kentucky has only managed to win two games. This has become a bit of a chip on the shoulder of UK fans, and no doubt, to the team, at least a little bit. Perry Stevenson and Ramon Harris may be the only players to remember what it was like to lose to the 04's of the Gators, but I'm certain by now that the rest of the team has heard about it.
Let's take a quick look at the comparison between the Gators and the 'Cats, courtesy of Statsheet.com:
|Rank and Records||UF||UK|
|Strength of Schedule||146||156|
|RPI Top 50||0-3||4-0|
Taking on the Gators will be the 'Cats first true road game since they traveled to Bloomington to face the Indiana Hoosiers earlier this year. Kentucky has been feasting at home, and now it's time to prove what they have learned.
More after the jump.
We will begin the analysis by the usual look at the dashboard. Don't forget, this thing is interactive.
Four Factors Analysis
As usual, thanks to A Sea of Blue member sylvar for producing the dashboard application above.
From an efficiency standpoint, this game looks like a major mismatch. Kentucky is far, far more efficient offensively than the Gators and is normally more efficient defensively. Given that, you have to wonder how Florida could beat the 'Cats. But the Four Factors provide some clues.
First of all, Florida turns it over less -- considerably less. They are at 19% for the year so far, and that is not a bad number considering their normal pace of play. But UK is better offensively at every other measure, including offensive rebounding and free throw rate percent.
Defensively, the Gators and the 'Cats have similar efficiencies, the Gators force more turnovers (likely due to their press), but also do not take care of the defensive glass as well as Kentucky does, allowing opponents 34% OR's against them. The Gators also don't send teams to the foul line much more than the 'Cats do.
Florida Gators Basketball Roster
|Kenny Boynton||1||G||Starter, major contributor, leading scorer||183||6-2||freshman|
|Vernon Macklin||32||F||Starter, significant contributor||240||6-10||junior|
|Erik Murphy||33||F||Reserve, significant contributor||217||6-9||freshman|
|Chandler Parsons||25||F||Reserve, significant contributor||215||6-9||junior|
|Ray Shipman||3||G||Reserve, role player||210||6-5||sophomore|
|Alex Tyus||23||F||Starter, significant contributor||220||6-8||junior|
|Erving Walker||11||G||Starter, significant contributor||171||5-8||sophomore|
|Dan Werner||21||F||Starter, limited role player||230||6-8||senior|
Position Analysis: Point guard
The point guard for Florida is Erving Walker. Walker is small, but lightning quick and can shoot the daylights out of the 3-point shot. Walker is a sophomore with a ton of game. His weakness is that he has a tendency to take bad shots and get out of control at times, but those times are coming less and less often.
This should really be a great point guard matchup. Wall has it all over Walker in strength and overall speed, but Walker is quick enough to largely nullify Wall's speed advantage if he stays alert. Walker may be the closest overall to Wall when it comes to speed and quickness that Wall has seen this year.
In the final analysis, though, nobody is better than Wall this year. At any position. Period.
Position Analysis: Shooting guard
The Gators' shooting guard is Kenny Boynton, the highly-touted former McDonalds All-American. Boynton is a classic combo guard at 6'2", and had a rep as a knock-down shooter coming out of high school, but he has struggled a bit shooting the 3-point shot at only 26% so far. But he has been playing better lately, and can get to the rim and finish as well.
Eric Bledsoe and Kenny Boynton are another excellent matchup. Boynton will score more, but has struggled at times defensively and will have to pay close attention to the strong and dangerous Bledsoe. Bledsoe has the advantage on defense, but Boynton is the more explosive offensive player
Position Analysis: Small Forward
Dan Werner normally starts at the small forward spot for the Gators. Werner is a senior with all the experience that denotes, and he can stroke the ball from outside as well as provide solid defense at a couple of positions. Werner is mostly a role player, but he is not as slow as he looks, and can tend to be streaky shooting from the perimeter.
Assuming Darius Miller starts, this should be a good matchup. Miller has a quickness and athleticism advantage over Werner, but his recent lack of aggression does not auger particularly well for his prospects. Werner is just as big and strong as Miller, so Miller can't really push him around like he can most wing forwards.
But Miller is the superior athlete with superior talent. If Liggins starts in Miller's place, most of the same caveats apply with the exception of size. Werner would have a significant size advantage versus Liggins, which is why I think he will keep coming off the bench.
Position analysis: Power Forward
Alex Tyus is a the power forward for the Gators, and he has a very similar game to Patrick Patterson with the exception of 3-point shooting -- Tyus does not take them, having only shot once from beyond the arc all year. Tyus runs the floor like a deer, and Kentucky will really have to pay attention to him in the open court.
Tyus' weakness is his body. He has not packed on much weight since coming to Florida, and the long-armed junior just isn't strong enough to bang with the likes of Patrick Patterson, to whom he gives up about 20#. Still, he is the Gators' leading rebounder because of his great length.
Patrick Patterson has few peers at the 4-spot this year, and the Tyus matchup is no exception. Patterson is bigger, stronger, just as athletic and a better shooter from everywhere on the floor.
Advantage: Slight Kentucky
Position Analysis: Center
Vernon Macklin will be the likely Gator center tonight, and the junior has good size at 6'10"/240#. Macklin runs the floor very well, like most of the Gators, and is one of the top rebounders on the team. Macklin is a good finisher who is averaging over 60% from the floor. Macklin is an average post defender.
Macklin is a good player, but he is going up against the monster big man of the SEC in DeMarcus Cousins. Cousins is bigger, stronger, and more talented than Macklin. In fact, Cousins is bigger, stronger and more talented than almost any big man in the country. Macklin cannot handle him defensively.
Florida has a decent but not particularly impressive bench with the major exception of Chandler Parsons and Ray Shipman. Parsons is a flexible front-court player who can do a lot, including shoot the three and rebound the basketball. The junior sees more minutes than Vernon Macklin, and shoots 38% from three. Ray Shipman is an athletic player who can defend three positions. Erik Murphy adds depth to Florida's front court, but Florida has very few options on the bench when it comes to guards.
The Gators are talented and big. Kentucky is more talented and even bigger. Let's just start off with that.
But that isn't the whole story. Florida is a far more mature team than Kentucky, and most of Florida's starters have been in Billy Donovan's system for several years. Florida knows how to execute their system, and even though they don't shoot a particularly high percentage of 3-point shots, they can get hot out there and make a ton.
Florida will run a lot of high pick and roll tonight, just as they always do. That is a very tough offense to defend, and it has worked really well for Donovan for the last 14 years as Gator coach.
The combination of Donovan's system and guys who are playing very hard right now makes this Florida team dangerous even to the more talented 'Cats. Florida is far more talented overall than the Georgia Bulldogs are, and that aught to tell you that this game will likely be a tough one for the young Wildcats.
But one thing we have seen all year is that these 'Cats don't like to lose, and when they bring it, you probably can't handle it. Will they bring it tonight? We'll see.
Projected score: Kentucky 80, Florida 74.