Friday, January 25, 2008

VSL's Florida Preview

After going over the Game Notes prepared by both schools, I have come to a conclusion: these are two very evenly matched least, they are on paper. Florida is exceptionally good at home, having won 12 of 13 this season, and 9-2 against Vanderbilt at the O'Connell Center. Coming into Sunday's game, the Gators of Florida are 17-3 on the year and 4-1 in conference. Their losses came at home against FSU and on the road at Ole Miss and Ohio State. In looking at the games, Florida had no business winning the game (at least based on the numbers, although the 16 offensive rebounds they grabbed certainly didn't hurt) at South Carolina on Wednesday, and could have very easily beaten Ole Miss in Oxford. Billy Donovan's Gators hit just 10-19 from the charity stripe in Oxford (they lost by 2, 89-87), and were outshot 52.8% from the floor and 50% from downtown as opposed to 43.8% and 36% for the Gators in Columbia. My point? Well, I don't really have one...expect that Florida could just as easily be 3-2 in conference as 5-0. At the end of the day, 4-1 is about right, despite feasting on a relatively weak SEC West (their wins include W's over Bama and Auburn, as well as South Carolina and Kentucky).

Despite graduating their ENTIRE starting five, Billy Donovan has reloaded with some real talent in Gainesville. The Gators start 2 freshman, 2 sophomores, and a junior, and have some players that can hurt you. There are a number of intriguing match-ups, but the one to circle is Crocodile OG and Florida Center Marresse Speights, the 6'10, 245 lbs. sophomore who is averaging 14.2 ppg and 7.9 rebounds on the season. Speights is a real player, and given the articles this week in both the Nashville City Paper and The Tennessean highlighting AJ's "struggles" in SEC play, I know the Commodores would like to get the Aussie into the action early.

Another great match-up to watch will be Shan Foster and Florida swingman Nick Calathes. Calathes is a 6'6 freshman who is lighting it up in SEC play, leading the league in scoring with 19.6 points a game in conference, while adding 5.2 boards and 6.2 assists a game. The Truf is nothing to scoff at either, who enters Sunday's game leading the league in scoring with 20.1 ppg, and now the 4th All-Time leading Commodores Scorer. Shan has had some success against the Gators in the past, netting 24 in the Commodores 83-70 win last year at Memorial.

My lady friend will be watching Sunday's game (with me, so don't get any ideas Big Guy), and given her new found affection for Ross (still in need of a nickname according to Aaron), I look for him to have a good game. He will have his hands full with Gator sophomore forward Dan Werner, who is averaging 11 and 5 in SEC play. Ross has 2 inches on Dan, and should look to take it to the youngster.

Jermaine Beal has been nothing short of sensational in conference play. Dolla Beal leads the league in assists, and has an ungodly 8.33/1 Assist to Turnover Ratio. He will be matched up with freshman Jai Lewis, a player who Dolla has 4 inches and 55 lbs. Jai has played well and will be a very good college player (he already is), but if Jermaine can run the offense and handle Florida's up-tempo style, the Commodores can leave Gainesville with a W. Dolla and the rest of the Commodores will have to make sure they know where he is at all times: he is shooting 52.7% from behind the arc in SEC play.

Red Gordon will make his final trip to his home state in conference play, and will be guarding Walter Hodge. What makes Florida so tough is each member of Florida's starting 5 is averaging double digits in conference play.

Now to the numbers:
- Florida plays better defense then Vanderbilt (and really, how doesn't?). Florida's opponents are averaging 63.8 points per game compared to the Commodores allowing 75.9.
- The have a better rebounding differential (5.7 compared to .6), and are overall a better rebounding team. While UF has outrebounded their opponents in all but one game (Auburn), Vanderbilt has only outrebounded South Carolina in conference play.
- Florida takes care of the basketball better, and forces their opponents to turn it over just slightly less than the Commdores do. While Florida is only giving it away 12.8 times a game, compared to the Commodores giving it away 17.25 times in conference. Vanderbilt has forced 16.75 turnovers, compared to the Gators getting 14 take-aways in SEC play.
- Vanderbilt is 8-0 on Regional TV
- Vanderbilt is 5-0 in games played before 6pm (can someone say Afternoon Delight?)
- If we lose the tip, we are in serious trouble. Both Vanderbilt losses have come after losing the initial show-down (it's worth mentioning we have won 9 while losing, so this stat might not actually be that important)
- Vanderbilt's 2 losses have come when trialing at the half, while all of Florida's losses have come when trailing at intermission (both teams have 3 wins when trailing)
- Florida's 3 losses have come when their opponents have shot more free throws than them. While they've won 5 games under those circumstances, Vanderbilt's fate could very well be tied to their ability to get to the charity stripe.
- Florida is 4-3 when shooting less than 50%, and 2-3 when their opponents shoot a higher percentage than the Gators.

Bottom Line:
Florida is good, and they are deep. While their starting 5 are averaging double-figures, their bench is adding 23.5 ppg. With 8 days to prepare and Stallings claiming the team focused on rebounding, defense, and taking care of the ball, Vanderbilt will have to do all these things if they are going to win (they also need to score more points). In Florida's 3 losses, they have scored just 62 points, shot 40% from the floor, and 21% from downtown. Compare that to 84 points, 52% from the field, and 47% from beyond the arc in their 17 wins. Vanderbilt has to get to the free throw line, get Crocodile OG involved early, and take care of the ball. More than anything though, Vanderbilt is going to have to play better defense than they have most of this season. If Coach Stallings has gotten his team's attention, the defense will be better; if he hasn't, they won't. It's worth mentioning that any team would have their hands full with this Gators team, still, if Vanderbilt is going to have the kind of year the VSL Nation thinks they are capable of, they are going to have to stiffen the D and get some wins on the road. It ain't easy, but Vanderbilt matches up well with Bill Donovan's boys. Given UF's outside shooting acumen, and the success the team has had this season, I would love to see Coach Stallings mix in some 2-3 over the course of the game.

4 of Vanderbilt's next 5 are on the road, and this is, as far as I am concerned, the best team we play during this stretch. If we could get a W on Sunday, Vanderbilt will go a long way in proving this team is a squad to be reckoned with come March.


Anonymous said...

yup. we are going to win this one

Aaron said...

Wow, that first half was pathetic.

Anonymous said...

uhhhh, what the **!!

we are horrible on the road. and fyi to the refs a trap is not a freakin foul.

Aaron said...

Nobody can be happy with today's result. We absolutley sucked the entire game, we fouled like crazy, couldnt rebound, and foster and croc og sucked it up all game (dont complain about the refs because we simply got outplayed, and while there might have been a bad call or two it in no way affected the game).

For those of you who believe we are "right where we want to be" that is just a fantasy right now (2-3 in SEC play). We cannot beat the press, we get destroyed on the road, and we are not even competitive against "better" teams.

We turn the ball over too much and we have no clue how to play any form of defense.

We go to Oxford, in what must be considered a must win game, not because of our record, but because of our confidence.

This team looked lost from the start today.

Anonymous said...

I have trouble adjusting my expectations this year. About the time we were 12-0, I thought we were playing badly, except for short runs here and there. If you don't defend, can't take care of the ball, don't rebound well, you have to score a lot of points to beat a good team. On the other hand, if Truf had been shooting well and Red had been shooting a little better, we would have been in the game. We may do well at home. If we make the tournament at all we're not likely to go far. I guess I'll be watching anyway.