NEW ORLEANS, LA — The Florida Gators (30-5) square off with Purdue (22-11) of the Big Ten Conference in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the New Orleans Arena Sunday (2:20 p.m. EDT, CBS TV). Florida is the overall number one seed in the tournament while Purdue is a number nine seed. Here are the matchups for today’s game.
AL HORFORD (6-10) VS. CARL LANDRY (6-7): This will be a very physical battle between two very physical players. Horford has the height advantage, but Landry uses his wide body to create space in the low post. Horford is coming off a 15-point, 16-rebound game against Jackson State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. He averages 13.2 points and 9.3 rebounds per game plus he has blocked 61 shots this season. Landry won’t block any shots but he uses his body to play strong position defense in the low post. He averages 18.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. In the first round, Landry had 21 points and 13 rebounds. Behind Landry, Purdue doesn’t have any quality backup help so watch the Gators to go early and often to Horford and Joakim Noah in the low blocks to try to get the Purdue big man in foul trouble. Landry’s strength is getting to the foul line. He’s averaging nearly nine free throw attempts per game. He will have to get the Florida big men in foul trouble for Purdue to have a chance.
JOAKIM NOAH (6-11) VS. GORDON WATT (6-6): Noah has a tremendous size advantage over Watt so look for Purdue to try to draw Noah away from the basket. Watt is a good mid-range shooter but he only takes one or two three-pointers a game. Noah’s ability to put the ball on the floor and get into the paint against Watt will be critical for Florida’s success. The Gators may try to initiate the offense at the high post with the ball in Noah’s hands to try to take away Purdue’s ability to double down on Horford. Look for Noah and Horford to have a good game passing the ball on the interior. Watch for Watt to try to play Noah physically and try to muscle the Florida big man away from the basket. Noah is coming off a 17-point, 12-rebound, 4-blocked shot game against Jackson State. Watt scored just two points against Arizona, but they were impressive. Knocked to his knees with the shot clock down to two, Watt calmly flipped up a shot that went in. Noah averages 12.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. He’s blocked 63 shots. Watt averages 7.3 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
COREY BREWER (6-9) VS. DAVID TEAGUE (6-5): Brewer is Florida’s best defender and Teague is Purdue’s best perimeter shooter so this will be a key matchup for Florida. If Brewer can neutralize Teague from the three point stripe (Teague is 82-197 for the season, 41.6 percent) it will take a chunk out of Purdue’s offense. The Boilermakers rely on Teague to hit the open three to stretch the defense and create space for Landry on the inside. Teague averages 14.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. He’s third on the team with 65 assists. Brewer, who averages 13 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, leads the Gators with 61 steals. He is coming off a 21-point game against Jackson State that included three three-pointers. Watch for Purdue to use plenty of screens to try to pick off Brewer so Teague can get open looks from the perimeter. Defensively, look for Teague to try to play Brewer very physically off the ball. Brewer has a quickness advantage so look for him to put the ball on the floor a lot. Also watch the Gators to play a lot of two-man games where Brewer drops the ball in down low and then moves to an open spot on the perimeter when Teague sags down to try to double up the Florida big man in the low post.
LEE HUMPHREY (6-2) VS. KEATON GRANT (6-4): Humphrey’s calling card is the three-point shot. He’s hit 45.4 percent of his three-point shots and he’s averaging 10 points per game. He’s coming off a hot second half against Jackson State in which he drilled four straight three-pointers in the second half. Grant is in the game for one thing and that’s to play defense. He’s not a very good shooter (36 percent overall and 25 percent from the three-point stripe). He’s committed 91 personal fouls this season so he’s used to playing opponents very physically. Watch for Florida to use a lot of screens to pick Grant off and get open looks for Humphrey. Watch for Purdue to try to post up Keaton down low so he can use his size advantage on Humphrey. Humphrey is Florida’s best on-the-ball defender. When Grant is in the game, Humphrey should be able to help Florida’s big men by doubling down on Landry.
TAUREAN GREEN (6-0) VS. CHRIS KRAMER (6-3): Green didn’t have a good shooting night against Jackson State but he more than made up for it with his passing (season high 12 assists). Kramer had only one assist but he scored 16 points, hitting 7-10 from the field. Green is a streaky three-point shooter that can take over a game when he gets hot. Kramer rarely shoots a three-pointer (only 33 attempts this season) but he will try to take defenders off the dribble and either take it all the way to the rack or pull up in the paint for a short jumper. Defensively, Green plays the passing lane well and he’s proven to be a tremendous perimeter defender, rarely allowing an opponent to get an open look from the three-point line. Because Kramer rarely shoots threes, look for Green to help out on Teague or double down a lot once Kramer kills his dribble. Watch for Kramer to try to take Green out of his game by playing physical almost the full length of the court. Once across midcourt, when the ball leaves Green’s hands, watch for Kramer to sag and help down low. That should open Green to find open space around the perimeter. If Green isn’t hitting, that will allow Kramer to trap Florida’s big men when they get the entry pass in the low blocks. Green is averaging 12.9 points and 3.8 assists per game. Kramer is averaging seven points and two assists per game.
BENCH: Florida’s first man off the bench will be 6-9, 260-pound Chris Richard who will go muscle for muscle with Landry down low. Richard is coming off a 17-point, six rebound game against Jackson State. Walter Hodge (6-0) is quicker than any of the Purdue guards. He’ll need to take and hit open three-pointers because they’ll try to take the driving lanes away from Hodge. Also watch for Florida to bring in 6-10 Marreese Speights off the bench to press their height advantage on the Boilermakers. Dan Werner (6-7) could also see some action early on for the Gators. Chris Lutz is Purdue’s best bench player and he’s a clone of Humphrey. His job is to shoot the three-ball and stretch the defense. Lutz is hitting 47.5 percent from the three-point line and averaging 6.2 points per game. Purdue also brings 6-1 Terrance Crump and 6-4 Marcus Green off the bench. Crump is a poor shooter (7-33 from the three-point stripe) while Green is a good leaper and rebounder.
BILLY DONOVAN (291-123) VS. MATT PAINTER (56-33: Donovan continues to prove that he’s one of the best game managers in the business. He’s also one of the best coaches in the month of March as proven by Florida’s 17-1 record in the post season the last three years. The Gators have a 13-game winning streak in post-season play dating back to last March and they have an NCAA-best seven game winning streak in the tournament. Donovan likes a three-man rotation of Horford, Noah and Richard in the low post and a four-man rotation on the outside with Brewer, Humphrey, Green and Hodge. Purdue will try to get physical with the Gators so watch Donovan to spread the court and run the offense off the high post with everything rotating off of Noah. Painter is a young coach whom many in the Big 10 think is the next Billy Donovan. He’s only 36 years old and he’s an outstanding recruiter. Painter is known for teams that play tough, physical defense.
ANALYSIS: Florida has a tremendous advantage in size and quickness over Purdue, which will play a tough, physical game. Purdue’s only chance is to make the game ugly early which means playing physical. Look for a similar game plan to that of LSU which is to try to take Taurean Green out of the game and throw Florida’s offense completely off track. That’s also a strategy that UCLA tried last year in the NCAA championship game but Florida compensated by starting the offense at the high post with Noah and rotating everything off the big man. The Gators will take the ball inside early and often on Landry to try to get him in foul trouble. Once he’s on the bench, the Boilermakers have very little in the way of height.
PREDICTION: A game for a half, then Florida will use its superior size and weapons to pull away for a trip to St. Louis for the Sweet 16.