Welcome to Inside the Enemy Ship. The Pirates take on the Florida Gators on Thanksgiving night in the Advocare Invitational. We were lucky enough to talk to Matt Brannon from The Independent Florida Alligator. Here are his thoughts on the match up of Florida against Seton Hall:
BBA: How have things been different with Gators basketball since the departure of Billy Donovan? MB: Billy Donovan was larger than life in Gainesville. The whole basketball program was centered around him and had little structure after he left in 2014-15, UF’s first losing season in 17 years. The focus has been making the NCAA Tournament under Mike White. And after not making the tourney two years in a row, the pressure is on this season, though most of us covering the team expect them to make it. The program didn’t have much culture in White’s first year, but now we’re starting to see more develop, especially concerning relationships among players and coaches. Interestingly enough, this is UF’s first Big East opponent since White took over.
BBA: Florida has had a weak schedule up to this point, what has impressed you so far though? MB: The most impressive thing they’ve done all season was probably starting the game 15-0 against Belmont. UF had just come off a game where they almost blew a big lead against St. Bonaventure. So it was impressive to see them come out firing in the next game, making it 15-0, 24-4, early on in the first half.
Another impressive improvement is how UF has gone from making about 64 percent of FTs last year to 75 percent so far.
BBA: What has been the biggest weakness of the UF team so far? MB: UF is last in the SEC in assists, but their biggest weakness is probably three-pointers. Florida was bad from three last season too and so far they’re shooting about 32 percent this year. They’re also letting opponents make 33.3 percent of their threes.
BBA: Where do you see Florida finishing this season in the SEC? MB: I expect Florida to finish second behind Kentucky at the moment, but it’s possible they could finish one or two spots down if Texas A&M and/or Georgia gets hot.
BBA: Which player should Seton Hall be most prepared to face on Thursday? MB: Florida’s gotten the bulk of its scoring from two wing players who score from all over the floor: Canyon Barry and Devin Robinson. Both can carry the offense and should be the priorities for any defense. Center John Egbunu can also score in the post with dunks/hook shots depending on how much he can muscle up the defender.
BBA: What do you see as Florida’s game plan against Seton Hall? MB: I think Florida will try to make it a defensive, low-scoring game. While they usually run with Justin Leon, kind of a three-four hybrid, at power forward, they might play Kevarrius Hayes, a true defensive four, to help rebound on the interior. Along with rebound, the other focus is limiting Seton Hall from three, which they had success doing against a big three-point shooting team in Belmont.
BBA: What’s your prediction for the final score? MB: I think the game will be decided in the last minutes with Florida winning 70-65.
A big thanks again to Matt Brannon for his insight into the UF program! Make sure to give him a follow on twitter @MattB_727. The game can be seen on ESPN2 at 8:30 pm. We will have full coverage of the game tomorrow night. Until then, Hazard Zet Forward.