Preview: Florida vs. Minnesota

Florida will face a completely different matchup in the round of 32 when they take on Minnesota Sunday afternoon in Austin, Texas at 6:10pm EST. Whereas NWST ran full speed at the Gators, the Gophers will try to slow the pace of the game down and play a methodical possession by possession game with Florida.

Minnesota’s strength is down low with big men Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams, who will battle on the block with Florida early and often. Minnesota boasts a plus 8.2 rebounding margin on the season and averages over five blocks per game as they try to wear teams down in the post.

Billy Donovan spoke of the challenge his team faces against a great rebounding team, “This will not only be a challenge for our front court, but it will be a challenge for our team to collectively be able to rebound the basketball.” But as successful as the Gophers are down low, they have often found themselves in trouble with their guard play. Consequently, as good as the Gophers have been rebounding, they have tended to negate that advantage this year by turning the ball over a lot. Multiple times this season the Gophers have turned the ball over 20-plus times.

Minnesota had lost their last three games and five of their past eleven heading into the NCAA tournament before beating UCLA 83-63 in their first game of the tournament Friday evening. The Gophers only turned the ball over 11 times against UCLA and shot at over a 50% clip, but the Bruins failed to show any sort of resilience last night and the Gators will surely be a much more formidable matchup for the Golden Gophers. Guard Andre Hollins was able to light up the Bruins for 28 points and surprisingly unrelated backcourt mate Austin Hollins, son of Memphis Grizzles coach Lionel Hollins, was able to pitch in 16 of his own.

The key for the Gators leaving Austin with their second victory will be having big men Patric Young, Erik Murphy, and Will Yeguete play strong and tough against the physical Minnesota frontcourt. “Obviously we have to come out with a lot of energy and play physical. They’re a Big Ten team; they’re a physical team so we’ve got to match that,” said forward Erik Murphy. The Gators should be able to find success forcing turnovers with their smothering full court press against the weak ball handling of the Minnesota guards.

As Scottie Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton have done all season, they will need to lock down another explosive scoring guard in Minnesota’s Andre Hollins, who came up big for the Golden Gophers Friday night and knocked down 41 against Memphis earlier in the season. When asked about the defensive challenge, Scottie Wilbekin said, “First of all, he is a great scorer and he can score in a multitude of ways. So I really just gotta be ready and I gotta count on my guys to help me if I get beat. But I just gotta be ready to contain him, don’t let him get any easy shots, always have a hand in his face.” Furthermore, Scottie Wilbekin should be able to push the ball down the court. That could really pay dividends for the Gator attack if he is able to orchestrate some quick transition points.

There shouldn’t be too much concern by Gator fans about Florida looking past the Golden Gophers. This is the first matchup between coaches Tubby Smith and Billy Donovan since Smith coached at Kentucky.  The two coaches also worked along side one another under Rick Pitino. Billy Donovan dismissed any issue of a letdown in the upcoming matchup between the two national champion coaches, “I just talked to our guys, more than anything else, that when the ball goes up in the air and it’s tipped to start the game, there’s no extra points we get for being a higher seed…it’s two teams lining up and playing.”


Previous articleFlorida knocks off Vandy
Next articleFlorida softball sweeps Arkansas
Seth Puglio
Seth Puglio joined GatorCountry while he was finishing his sports management degree at the University of Florida. Originally from Vero Beach, Florida, Seth has been a huge sports fan his whole life and always knew he would want to get into the sports industry anyway he could. He has spent time working for several athletic administrative departments for the Gators and joined Gator Country as an intern in October of 2012. He is now viewing the sports industry from a new angle as Gator Country’s editor. In his free time Seth enjoys fishing, grilling out, watching too much sports and afternoon naps on the hammock. He is a fan of the Gators, Miami Dolphins, Orlando Magic, Tampa Bay Rays and Tampa Bay Lightning. Follow Seth on twitter @spuglio