I’m going to deviate from my normal recap writing style and instead, take a page out of the Gators’ playbook when I write this recap- short, sweet, to the point, and it gets the job done.
These are the bone dry facts:
-Florida beat Albany yesterday, 67-55. They move on to face Pittsburgh in the round of 32 on Saturday.
-Albany shot less than 40% from the field yesterday (20-51). Florida shot greater than 50% (25-49).
-Florida shot 14-18 from the free throw line yesterday, easily eclipsing the 70% bar I set after the Arkansas game.
-I always thought the Gators would win the game, but I was never certain they would until Michael Frazier hit a three to expand Florida’s lead to 51-41 with 10 minutes to go.
–Kasey Hill really impressed, slashing to the hoop and making Albany’s defenders look like they were playing in quicksand.
-And last but not least, the Gators played piss-poor basketball for a full 40 minutes and still won. That’s not opinion, that’s fact, and every single player and coach will tell you the same thing.
This team is capable of so much more than having to grind out a 12 point win against a team that lost by more to Hartford, Vermont and Bucknell – and everybody knows it. You as the reader know it, I know it, Billy Donovan knows it, the players know it, and even Albany knows it. This is a team that went on a 21-0 run against the Kansas Jayhawks, one of the best teams in college basketball, swept a solid (though admittedly trending the wrong way) Kentucky team, was a fluke bounce away from beating UConn in Gampel Pavilion, and went 21-0 against the SEC- certainly not the nation’s best conference, but certainly worlds better top to bottom than the paltry America East that Albany slogged through with a 9-7 record.
But you know what’s really frightening? I could forgive this awful game if it was just another case of the lower seed playing really well, which is certainly a theme that most sportswriters took and ran off with. Even my former boss at Alligator Army, Andy Hutchins, thinks Albany played really well… which they did at times, but the overall quality of Albany’s basketball team yesterday was a B- at best. If it was a team like Norfolk State or Florida Gulf Coast just hitting ridiculous shots, then so be it, but Albany was not doing that; I’ll remind you that Albany was below 40% from the field yesterday.
No, what really happened is that Albany played like they wanted to win more than Florida. Think I’m wrong? Show me a stat that proves otherwise. The Gators are deeper, bigger, faster and stronger than Albany- and don’t debate that like it’s an opinion, because that’s a proven fact- yet only outrebounded the Great Danes by three measly boards. Patric Young missed a wide open dunk (I know it wouldn’t have counted because of a foul earlier on the play, but still), which suggests a lack of focus from a guy who’s been arguably the Gators’ most important player this year. The Gators gave Albany way too many wide open looks, which is a direct result from not hustling on defense (and if Albany was actually playing well the way everybody is claiming they did, they would have blown Florida out because playing well implies shooting better than 39% from the field when about 80% of your 50+ shots are completely uncontested). Even Scottie Wilbekin missed on a couple of defensive rotations (to his credit, he did make up for it with some clutch threes). And as usual, the offense was extremely unimpressive, but I’ve made peace with that as long as the Gators defend well… which, again, they didn’t do against a team that could only put up 55 points.
Bottom line: Florida was just awful yesterday, in pretty much every way possible, yet they survived and advanced. I’ll be quick to point out that the Gators sleepwalked through their opening game against North Florida this year. Now the Gators have the best record in school history. And I’ll also remind you that last year, Marquette cut it much closer against Davidson in the first round than Florida did against Albany, yet made a run to the Elite 8. Of course, Florida wants more than an Elite Eight this year, and they’re going to have to play leagues better than they did yesterday… well, we’ve already been there.
I’ll leave you with this. Yesterday was good enough to beat Albany, but it wasn’t good in general. Essentially, yesterday’s effort does not compare favorably to the way we all know the Gators can play. It was a red flag, but red flags aren’t fatal. They’re warning signs, wakeup calls, etc. Billy Donovan is among the great coaches in the history of college basketball. I have full confidence he’ll get this team to answer the bell and get them back on track. If he doesn’t, the Gators will get their asses kicked by Pitt tomorrow, and I won’t shed a single tear for them if they do. It’s up to them to decide if they want to play the way they’re capable of playing, and as fans, it’s up to us to hope and pray that they do, in all kinds of weather.