Monday, April 02, 2007

Gators Bite

Take the title how you will, but they do, you know. Otherwise, how would they eat? Anyway, the Florida Gators are obviously a very good basketball team. They deserve to be the favorite in tonight's match-up with Ohio State. Two thoughts though: (1) I hate the idea of one team winning back-to-back-to-back major college championships; and (2) this isn't the clear cut situation that the mainstream media is making it out to be. (Also, yes, I know baseball season starts today and that this site is named after White Sox' GREAT Ron Karkovice -- as an aside to this aside, the Red Head had a cab driver in Austin, Texas this weekend who claimed to have attended high school with Kark -- but the NCAA Championship game trumps the baseball season opener).

Florida is one of the two best offensive teams in the nation. Their offensive scheme reduces the game to two things: three point jumpers and dunks/layups. Rarely do they attempt a jumper worth only two points. As a result, they lead the country in effective field goal percentage. They also lead the country in shooting percentage on 2-point attempts. Lee Humphrey and Al Horford symbolize this approach. Humphrey shoots threes, 231 of his 288 attempts this year were from long range, and Horford dunks the ball. The two approaches are equally effective. Each is in the top-50 in ORtg, and each is in the top-40 in effective field goal percentage. Throw in the underrated Taurean Green and you have a bit of a juggernaut. Interestingly, Joakim Noah, the face of the team, and possibly its best pro prospect, is only the fourth, or even fifth, best college player on the Gators.

But Ohio State is no bunch of scrubs. Today on Mike and Mike, Golic picked the Buckeyes, and then he and Greeny laughed as if it was the most ridiculous reach in the history of prognostication. And that mirrors the general attitude of the mainstream media. The Gators are huge favorites against Ohio State. But that shouldn't be the case at all. Ohio State needs to do three things to beat Florida: win the turnover battle, control the defensive glass, and attack the basket at the offensive end. Staying out of foul trouble wouldn't be a bad idea either.

All of this is easier said than done, but Ohio State has the manpower to do it. They were also among the nation's top-5 offenses this year. A big part of that was not turning the ball over. And, Ohio State was good, if not great, about keeping opponents off of the offensive glass. Also, despite Saturday's evidence to the contrary, they usually did an excellent job of staying out of foul trouble this year. The one thing they didn't do as much of this season as they'll need to tonight, is attack the basket and get to the line. Which brings us back to the key man for Ohio State, Mike Conley. I've said before that he was the one guy on all of the Final Four teams most likely to put his team on his back and win a championship. Tonight has to be the night. He's the guy who can get easy shots, and free throw attempts, for both himself and his teammates.

Will Florida win tonight? Maybe. I'd say the chances are slightly better than 50/50. But to treat this game like a match-up of a Goliath against an over matched underdog is silly. And since I've already professed my confidence in Conley, I'll stick with him, and say he get the job done.


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