We’re ramping up our coverage of Gator basketball, like I’ve promised we would do for weeks now, and I can finally feel good about myself because at last, I’m making good on that promise.
So I’m proud to introduce a new segment called the three point play. The idea is to get our three main, full time writers together (Tanner Dennie, Joey Vizzi and yours truly) and have them give their thoughts on one thing they saw in the previous game that really stood out to them. It will run a day or two after each game. Without further ado, here’s the first one…
TANNER DENNIE: No one can stop Patric Young when he gets going in the paint. It’s impossible to keep him off the boards to begin with, but when he’s able to clean up the misses and finish himself with either a layup, a dunk or a baby hook shot, he’s a seriously dangerous player. Having said that, he’s got to start consistently playing aggressively down low in order for the Gators to fully rely on him as a weapon. No longer do the Florida Gators live and die by the 3 ball. The inside game has become crucial, from Young on the boards and Kasey Hill and Scottie Wilbekin driving the lane.
There were times yesterday, where Patric Young made some really nice moves, and I was really excited to watch him. Like the time where he went all Air Jordan and delivered a tomahawk slam that would have made Rob Gronkowski proud. But there were other instances where he got boxed out by the likes of Jeronne Maymon for easy boards on both offense and defense. If he can crank up the focus, and be that nasty player he was in spurts yesterday for the entire game (or at least most of it), Florida as a team will be extremely dangerous come March.
JOEY VIZZI: I saw a suffocating defense that completely shut down the Volunteers’ offense and essentially rendered their guard play irrelevant. They only let Jordan McRae go 1-15, Antonio Barton was limited to 1-7 and Josh Richardson went 0-7. That’s a grand total of 2-29 from the field… not exactly the percentage you want your team of shooting guards to have.
In particular, I was impressed by the defense of Scottie Wilbekin, who is arguably one of the best on ball defenders Florida’s had in my lifetime. He and Casey Prather swarmed McRae and made his life a living hell- he finished with just 3 points. Not a bad job on the highest scorer from Rocky Top. Of course, Wilbekin will eventually be tasked with shutting down better, more explosive opponents, but McRae’s certainly not a bad one, and judging by his other performances on defense this year, I think he’s up for whatever challenges come his way.
NEIL SHULMAN: I was impressed with Florida’s transition game. Somebody commented on this in my game recap and I couldn’t agree more. If you commit a live ball turnover against Florida, you’re dead. You’re literally better off throwing the ball halfway up the stands. Whoever picks up the carelessly attended loose basketball knows to immediately get it to one of Florida’s running guards- Wilbekin or Hill. If they’re the ones that come up with it, well, that’s even worse. Because once they get it in their hands, they’re off and running, and I’m not sure Jeff Demps could catch them.
This team has developed several methods of scoring in transition, like an impossible-to-defend weave, or a kick out to an open Michael Frazier for three. No team can stop everything, and Wilbekin/Hill is smart enough on the run to pick the right play and get Florida the best possibility of points. When a team tries to defend the paint in a two-on-one, somebody’s gotta be open, right? It’s basic math. And even if some monster like Jeronne Maymon can cover both advancing guards at once, the rest of the team- Frazier, Dorian Finney-Smith, etc. are fast enough to get down there and get an open look at a three. If Florida can force a lot of live ball turnovers game in, and game out, and get a lot of reps at this in big games, they will be very difficult to beat.