Final Four: Florida Preview

By Jerry Palm - March 28, 2007

The Gators come to Atlanta looking to defend their national championship of a year ago, and they bring a lot of weapons with them, which might be a problem getting through airport security.

Florida is difficult to defend because any of the starters are capable of carrying the team on any given night. Each of them has led the team in scoring in at least five different games this season and averages in double figures. A big reason for this is that they are a very unselfish team. Since they know that any of them is an offensive threat, they often make the extra pass for a better shot. The only starter averaging below 2 assists per game is Lee Humphrey and the only one with a negative assist-to-turnover ratio is Joakim Noah. Florida is also a very good rebounding team and is one of the best in the nation at defending the three-point line.

Still, as coach Billy Donovan likes to say, the Gators "are a flawed basketball team." Sometimes, that extra pass is really one too many. They have been sloppy with the basketball in their last three games, including an 18 turnover performance against Oregon. They are also not a particularly good free throw shooting team. Florida averages only 68% from the line, and nearly shot the Ducks back into the game the other night by going 18-28 down the stretch of that game. In the two previous games against Butler and Purdue, they were much better closing out at the line. They have also struggled coming out of the locker room in each half of this tournament except two - the second half against Jackson St and the second half against Oregon.

Another potential problem for Florida may be the distraction of the talk about Donovan going to Kentucky or to the Miami Heat or to anywhere-but-Florida. In St. Louis, Donovan was asked about the Kentucky job and gave us a dissertation for an answer that didn't contain the word "no." Donovan is one of those guys with a poor quantity-to-quality-of-words ratio. However, the Gators have done a reasonably good job this season of handling the distraction of being the team to beat, so maybe this distraction won't be much of an issue.

In short, if Florida plays its best, they'll be the first team to repeat since Duke did it in 1991-92. If they don't, they might go home Saturday.

Posted by Jerry Palm at 11:31 AM on March 28, 2007

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