GatorCountry brings you a new podcast as we break down how the Florida Gators basketball fared on Selection Sunday on Sunday.
Andrew Spivey and Nick de la Torre are joined by Eric Fawcett who breaks down the Gators match-up in the tournament as Florida earned the number six seed in the East Region.
Andrew and Nick ask Eric the tough questions about the Gators after they took a tough loss in the SEC tournament to Arkansas on Friday.
Andrew: What’s up, Gator Country? Your man, Andrew Spivey, here with Nicholas de la Torre, with our man, Eric. We’re joining you guys after Selection Sunday. It’s one of the popular days. TBS just ruined that day for us all.
Nick: That was pretty maddening to release 69 teams alphabetically. Just give me the bracket. Just say, here are the teams. Here is when they’ll play and who they’ll play against. Here you go.
Andrew: Then break it down. I don’t need to hear it alphabetically.
Eric: At least we’re lucky, Florida got announced pretty quick what bracket they’re in. For those of you listening, the Gators were announced in their bracket, and like four minutes later we’re recording this. No need for us to stick around. We just went right to it. The bracket is actually still being announced as we record this, but luckily, we know where Florida is playing.
Nick: I was fully mentally preparing myself for Florida to be the 68th team named, and we’d be sitting here until like 8:00 on Sunday night waiting to talk about it.
Eric: Can you imagine? Let’s announce every other matchup first. We’ll do alphabetically, but just say Florida last. How about Florida getting booed when they weren’t even doing seeds? They were just alphabetically saying what teams had at large bids, and Florida got booed by the old Atlanta crowd there, the 23 people that are there. That was kind of funny. Got a chuckle out of that.
Andrew: I don’t know about this whole live deal. To me it just screams TV advertising. It’s retarded, but that runs the business. Florida gets the six seed in the East region, will take on the winner of the play-in game of Saint Bonaventure and UCLA in a Thursday bracket out in Dallas, Texas. Overall, I think after Friday’s performance we all probably agree that Florida was going to get a six-seed heading into Sunday, right?
Eric: That’s what they deserved. It’s really not too bad. It’s crazy. The difference between like a one and a two seed, or a two and a three seed, that is kind of big difference. Once you get to the difference between a five or a six seed, it isn’t a huge deal. The difference between playing the 11th and the 12th team is not a major deal. Again, the whole bracket hasn’t even been announced yet, because we are recording this as it happens. Loyola Chicago is an eleven seed, and Davidson is a twelve. The difference between those two teams is not that large. The difference between a five and six for Gators is not a huge deal.
Andrew: If you’re Florida, if you’re lucky enough to make it to the Sweet Sixteen, would you rather play Villanova or Purdue?
Eric: That’s a great point too. I’ll say Purdue every time.
Andrew: Yeah. Let’s just look at this. Obviously, Florida’s opponent is not known yet, because of the Saint Bonaventure-UCLA play-in game on Tuesday. Eric, quick, I know you had a chance to briefly look at this. You told me that you thought a surprise could happen in this game. What do you see this game?
Eric: I mean, when you see the big brand-name UCLA, and then you see Saint Bonaventure, you’re probably thinking power conference team, Florida is going to see UCLA. If I was doing one of the brackets where you pick who you think is going to win the play-in game, I’m taking Saint Bonaventure. Both UCLA and Saint Bonaventure their best players are point guards. I think Jalen Adams at Saint Bonaventure is going to outplay Aaron Holiday at UCLA. Aaron Holiday is a great player, don’t get wrong, but they both play a similar style. I think it almost seems like they made that play-in game to have a really fun brand of basketball.
Saint Bonaventure, I think their offense is crisper. It’s smoother. They’re more consistent. They played in a lot more tight games, as opposed to a bunch of that weird bad Pack 12 there was this year. I’m expecting Saint Bonaventure. What’s kind of nice is, like I mentioned, both of these teams play a similar style of basketball, and therefore it’s not like the Gators have to prepare for maybe we’re going to see this team that slows things down or full court presses, and then the other team is playing the opposite. They’re not going to say this team just traps and plays zone, and the other team plays pack line man defense. They’re going to be able to prepare for a pretty similar style of team, and probably be ready for them.
Chris Chiozza is going to be the most important guy, because he’s going to have the toughest matchup. Whatever team wins, their best player is a point guard. I think, if you’re a Florida fan, you like that. You want your senior point guard, who’s been Florida’s best player, probably most consistent best player all year, you want him going against the other team’s best player. It’s going to be a great round of 64 game.
Andrew: You feel like players are going to steal anything on this trip?
Eric: I’m glad it’s at a neutral site, so they don’t try to make their way out of the O Dome with a piece of the Final Four floor.
Andrew: For real.
Nick: Correct me if I’m wrong. I think it’s something Mike White said too. It seems like teams that make runs in this always have, not necessarily a senior or a leader point guard, a veteran, but always have great point guard play.
Eric: It just seems like when you’re playing a tournament, and you have these tight turnarounds, you obviously don’t know who you’re going to play until the day after really. You don’t have a chance to scout much. When you see a bunch of different defenses, you see a lot of different looks, you need a point guard on the floor that’s going to be able to figure things out.
If you don’t have a point guard that can figure things out when you step on the floor, the ball is tipped, you think the team is about to play 2-3 zone, but they come out in a 1-3-1, and you’re not prepared for that. If you don’t have a point guard who can figure that out quick, you’re not built for a one and done tournament. Great point by Mike White. If you just look historically at teams that have made runs, both teams that are kind of like Cinderella teams that have made runs, or even just power conference teams that took care of business, it’s really all about guard play.
Andrew: When you look at this bracket as a whole, Eric, what do you think of the East region? Obviously, Villanova is a good team, but overall what do you think of it?
Eric: One thing that’s crazy is just the fact that the Big Ten did their tournament so early. I feel like so many people have just kind of forgot about Purdue. Let’s be real here. Villanova has been the class of college basketball the last few years. To be honest, I do think they’re the strongest #1 seed, particularly as it relates to the Gators matching up with them. Villanova probably likes their path. As much as Alabama turned a lot of eyes on them nationally with their SEC Tournament run, I don’t think too many people are going to pick them to beat Virginia Tech and beat Villanova.
Then you look at West Virginia. The style of basketball they play, they’re always just upset fodder, and this year more than ever. We always know they’re going to press, which has never worked historically in the tournament, not just for West Virginia, but for all pressing teams. Then you see that this year they shoot more threes than they ever have before. That’s two styles of basketball that will get you beat if you’re cold. If a team beats their press and if they’re not hitting threes, good luck. Maybe you see the Murray State Racers keep going. Wichita State, another team that doesn’t look like the Wichita State we’ve seen in the past.
There’s a lot of beatable teams in this bracket. Texas Tech plays really slow, and that means that they’re susceptible to losing to a team that can go up early, because they’re not built to play from behind. As someone who covers the Gators, if you’re a Gators fan, you should actually be pretty happy with this bracket.
Andrew: Okay. I guess, when you look at this game, the play-in game, if you’re Florida, what are you hoping for?
Eric: One, you’re hoping that when you go play you’re not coming out rusty. With the Gators getting the double buy, losing in their first game, and then not playing till Thursday, it’s going to be 11, 12, 13 days where they’ve played one game of basketball in there. Then you’re going to run into a team in a play-in game that has had a chance to get their feet wet in the NCAA Tournament and is going to be probably a little bit more ready to go.
In terms of what you’re hoping for, like I said, the fact that they play similar styles of basketball, I don’t think there’s one that the Gators are really hoping, like we match up a lot better with Saint Bonaventure, or we match up a lot better with UCLA. I would say UCLA’s offense is stronger, but I would say their defense is worse. Saint Bonaventure is maybe a little more level. Their offense isn’t quite as good, but their defense is better. I think Saint Bonaventure is going to give a more consistent effort. Do you want a boom or bust UCLA team, or a Saint Bonaventure team that’s maybe a little more consistent?
Andrew: Obviously, you’re going into this tournament with Florida, and you have that loss. That loss stinks. At the same time, Florida may have been a five seed. I mean, Eric, I know you said maybe a four seed if they made it. I personally still thought they were a five or six seed. I mean, how much do you worry about the last game? Then how much of it is we got a little rest?
Eric: Like I said, I’m a little bit concerned about too much rest. Again, they had almost a week. They played one SEC Tournament game. Then they’re going to have almost a week until they play again. I guess we look at last year as well, with them losing to Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament early. That loss almost stung more, just with the way that Vanderbilt weirdly had the Florida Gator’s number all season. It obviously didn’t affect Florida too much last season in their Elite Eight run. We saw South Carolina, they just limped into the NCAA Tournament after finishing the SEC season poorly. Obviously, they did well. You can look at Michigan, who got hot and went hot into the NCAA Tournament and was hot.
I don’t know. I don’t think there’s enough evidence either way. People always talk about going into the tournament hot and not wanting to go in cold, but it really seems like when you get to the NCAA Tournament on a neutral floor it really is a clean slate. I know that’s kind of a cliché, but I would say the evidence really does support that.
Nick: It’s kind of evidence-based, but I’m going to throw a little conspiracy at you. What’s the deal with the six seed losing?
Eric: I guess it is kind of a thing. You see the 5-12 every year, the 6-11. That really does seem to be the point where things start to level out, I guess. When you get to the 13 seeds, that’s still low major schools or mid major schools that won their conference. Once you get to 12 and 11, that’s usually teams that got hot and just made the NCAA Tournament as an at large bid, or just like the really good mid major. Look at Loyola Chicago.
Then you also factor in, again like I was talking about, when you play those 6-11 games you get those play-in games. Therefore, it’s an eleven seed that has already played an NCAA Tournament game. Sometimes you’ve seen that eleven seed that wins their play-in game, has their feet wet. They don’t go into the next round looking at the bright lights, because they’ve already gone through that. Then they surprise a six seed, who probably feels pretty comfortable, but then goes on a neutral floor at the NCAA Tournament and doesn’t execute, because they weren’t ready for it. I think that’s a factor too.
Andrew: When you go into this for Florida, you talk about their shooting. Florida is either on or they’re off. There is no in between.
Nick: We were talking about before about how they were kind of talking down about Florida, but I feel like it’s a Florida team that you would be the same level of surprised if they lost the first game or if they made another run to the Elite Eight and Final Four. You kind of just know that Florida is going to go with their shots. If their shots are falling, they’re going to have a chance. They’re just a team that relies so heavily on that.
Eric: I don’t think that’s fully giving Florida enough credit, just because their defense has ended up winning them games down the stretch in the SEC season. They have a top 20 defense, according to the metrics. Defense is going to keep you in games. Again, if you look at UCLA, they’ve got a top 25 offense, which is better than Florida’s, who hovers around 40, but they’re 110th in defense. That is a team that needs to hit their shots. Unfortunately, UCLA just wasn’t relevant enough to be the team that the media had to say that’s a team that can do anything when they make their shots. UCLA, that is a team that if they make their shots they can beat anyone.
I just think that notion that Florida needs to hit shots just isn’t totally true, just because their defense has gotten to the point where that has won them games, and that will keep them in games. Like you said, there is a point where if you go 1 for 14 from the field in a stretch, no matter how good your defense is, the other team is probably going to outscore you in that run. They definitely need someone to knock down shots. They need to not be atrocious from the field, but it’s not like they need to be hot or they’re not going to win. They can be average offensively, and they’ll be above average defensively, and that will win.
Andrew: I saw a stat over the weekend about Jalen Hudson. When Jalen Hudson scores, I believe it was 14 points, Florida is perfect in the new year, and when he doesn’t, they’re two and something. I’m looking for the stat as we speak here. Here it is. Florida is 10-2 this season when Jalen Hudson scores 17+. They’re 3-7 when he scores 17 or less. Basically, we need to watch Jalen Hudson.
Eric: The thing about Jalen Hudson is when he scores he doesn’t do it within the flow of the offense. He runs up the floor. He takes a couple bounces. He steps back, and he pulls up. That’s how he gets his shots. If they go in, it’s totally like found money for the Gators, because they didn’t have to run offense. It doesn’t matter how good the defense was set against them. That’s points.
Conversely, if he’s missing shots, like he did in the SEC Tournament, he goes up the floor. There’s 25 seconds on the shot clock. He steps back, and it rims out. Then it’s just a straight up wasted possession for the Gators, where they didn’t have to make the other team work. They didn’t have to make them use any energy. They’re very much wasted possessions.
That’s why I do think there’s something there to that Jalen Hudson stat, because if he scores 19 points that means that probably 11 or 12 or 13 of those weren’t even in the flow of offense, and therefore that really is like free found 12 points. When he’s one for nine from the field, that means they probably wasted eight possessions where they weren’t able to get any momentum. The other team was probably able to run out and transition after a long miss, and they were really ugly. In a lot of ways, the team really does go with Jalen Hudson’s shooting.
Andrew: When you look at this tournament and you look at Florida, is Jalen Hudson the player that has to go, or is it Chris Chiozza? Who is it for Florida? Last year I would say it was almost Chris Chiozza. Kasey Hill, of course, got hot and pushed them for a long way. Is it Chris Chiozza again that needs to be that guy to get this team to roll?
Eric: Me and Nick were talking earlier just about the importance of a point guard in a setting like this. He’s important. The thing about Chris Chiozza is he really has been so consistent that I don’t feel like you maybe need to stay up at night thinking about whether he’s going to produce or not. He’s just been so steady.
I don’t maybe worry about him as much as I think about Jalen Hudson, and I think about that stat you mentioned. Again, I see Texas Tech, a team like that, in the second round. I don’t want to look too far ahead, but that’s a team that is all about defense. If Jalen Hudson is on, he’s going to score 25 points no matter how good your defense is. Jalen Hudson has hung a lot of points on teams that have defended him and defended the Gators excellently, but he can just create a little bit of space, pull up, and score. If Hudson is on, it really doesn’t matter what the other team is doing.
Chiozza has been slowed by other teams really good defense and defense that have kind of schemed against him. I do say slowed. He hasn’t ever really been shut down or had awful nights, but he’s been slowed. You could take your pick for which of those players is important. You could look at Florida’s frontcourt and say they’re really important, because if they just get absolutely dominated that doesn’t look so good for the team’s outlook. Obviously, we’ve talked so much about KeVaughn Allen on this podcast. You could use him as most important. If I had to say one player, I’m probably still going Hudson.
Nick: A point they brought up on ESPN, and they were really talking about the Big 12, because of their true round-robin format. They were talking about Trey Young. These teams know you. You’ve played each other so many times. Bringing that back to Florida, they struggled some down in the middle of the SEC schedule, but how much is it different when you’re playing teams that aren’t familiar with you? Really, I think Florida was taken advantage of when they didn’t have post presence at times this year. Does that change? Does that whole thing change once you get into the tournament and you’re playing teams that might have 48 hours to watch film and get ready for a game?
Eric: That definitely helps. The fact that Florida does have so many players that could lead them offensively, that makes them to be a tougher scout. Again, you’re talking about the turnaround. If Florida wins, they have a turnaround to whoever plays them in the round of 32. They have to think, is Chris Chiozza just going to pick and roll us to death? How are we going to try to contain that pick and roll? Then they also have to be like, if KeVaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson are attacking us from the wing, how are we going to do that? Where’s our help going to come from? Did you see Keith Stone the other night? Keith Stone was their best offensive player by a long shot. How are we going to keep him in front of us on the perimeter and not allow him to knock down shots?
Nick: Is KeVaughn Allen going to wake up before game time?
Eric: Totally. That is what makes Florida a tough scout, just because they do have a lot of guys. Again, they can be like this is exactly how we’re going to stop Chris Chiozza in the pick and roll. Maybe they’re successful. Maybe they stop Jalen Hudson, but Keith Stone hits six threes with that gorgeous stroke. It’s really tough to match up with four offensive options. You can maybe stop the primary one, and that’s kind of picking your poison in a one and done tournament. You’ve got to decide what you think is most important and put all your effort towards stopping that.
Florida has the opportunity to kind of do that with, again, two really good point guards. They’re going to face one of them, either UCLA or Saint Bonaventure.
Nick: We haven’t given you enough time to properly fawn over Keith Stone’s stroke.
Nick: That would be a podcast in and of itself. We haven’t given you enough time to talk about Keith Stone’s shot this year.
Eric: That would require some video, an interpretive dance, perhaps some flagging, some paintings. A sculpture, perhaps. There needs to a lot of means to fully gather how much I love that jump shot.
Nick: Something that looks like the Marlin’s homerun sculpture. Moving piece of art.
Andrew: Eric and I were texting during the game, and I told him I thought he had the sweetest shot since Bradley Beal. I do. I believe that that shot is just a gorgeous shot. Even on misses, it looked pretty. It looks like it’s going to be a good shot.
Eric: You see two really different shooting forms between a guy like Jalen Hudson, who he’s very much an aimer, I like to call it. He shoots the ball different ways all the time, and it allows him to hit tough shots when he’s contested, but it also allows him to miss some wide open ones. Then you have Keith Stone, who is deadly consistent. His stroke looks the same every single time. That means that if he could get off his stroke he’s going to hit it 50% of the time, but it does mean if he’s disrupted at all he’s probably not going to hit it. It’s really interesting. Two great shooters that both go about it in drastically different ways.
Andrew: Let me ask you this. You look at Florida, and you talk about the styles of the plays are the same for the two teams. If you’re Mike White, what are you doing the next two days? If you’re Arizona, or if you’re Duke, you’re now breaking down film of your opponent. What are you doing if you’re Mike White? Are you preparing for both teams? I think that’s kind of overkill. I guess, I’m asking you what would you do?
Eric: What I’m honestly guessing is he probably, and I’m picking names at random, but he probably has Jordan Mincy looking at one of them and Darris Nichols looking at another one. Then he probably has Dusty May looking at the last games and what Florida just needs to improve internally. I’m guessing this is where you really use your assistant coaches. It’s something that the public doesn’t always see. This is where your assistant coaches are so valuable, because not everyone can have eyes on everything. He’s probably really trusting his assistants right now to branch out and kill their role and be so ready for whoever wins.
Tuesday to Thursday they’ll obviously have the chance to know who wins. I didn’t see what time it tips, if it was the first or second game on that Tuesday. Maybe it’s the early game. It’s probably not actually, but maybe it’s the early game, and they even have a chance that night to start looking at stuff. There’s always that debate too of how much do you want to scout. Do you want to shove so much information down your players’ throats about personnel and packages that the other team is going to run, or do you just want to pick one major thing, like this is how they run this offense, let’s really stop this, and then we can focus on that? It’ll be interesting to see.
To answer your original question, I am guessing he has his assistant coaches out there preparing for both teams.
Nick: How would you say is pregame, as far as scouting pregame, and then in-game adjustments? It’s like you said, when scouting Florida, we need to stop Chris Chiozza, and then if you’re successful in that, now Florida’s going to turn to something else offensively, or even defensively. How much is in-game adjustments versus pregame scouting?
Eric: I think pregame scouting is huge. I also know, just from the way that Mike White talks about pregame scouting, that that’s probably what he would say as well. He often talked last year about how he almost over scouted or overprepared his players and gave them too much information, to the point of it just being overkill. I think that it’s pretty nice to be able to go into the opening tip having a pretty good idea of what your opponent is doing, so that if they change something you just have to use maybe one time out to figure it out. I think pregame is pretty important.
You, obviously, have to be always prepared for in-game adjustments. You always see some teams in the tournament that play a certain defense the entire season, and then it comes to a one and done tournament, and they change it just to throw off the other team. Do I expect that from one of the other teams? I’m not sure, but it could happen. Obviously, you have to be ready.
That’s another huge advantage of how good the SEC was this year. Florida saw so many different styles of play, as well as their difficult nonconference schedule. Saw so many different styles of play, saw so many good players, that they’ve had to make in-game adjustments a ton. To be honest, it hasn’t always worked, and we’ve sat on this podcast and said, why couldn’t Florida make this adjustment in the second half that led to their defeat? But they’ve gone through that already, and that’s the advantage they’ll have over a team like UCLA that played in a worse conference in the Pack 12, or Saint Bonaventure who played in the worst conference in the A10.
I’ll say that the scout is probably more important, but in the heat of battle during the game, if one coach can make better adjustments than the other, that can be worth a few points.
Andrew: Last thing I want to say is that sorry SEC who everyone talks about. Eight teams in. Second in the country. SEC isn’t bad.
Eric: Not at all.
Andrew: It just means more.
Eric: Not only do they have eight teams in, but we’ve talked about it before, this isn’t a flash in the pan. So many programs have great incoming recruiting classes. They have a lot of guys that aren’t even seniors that are going to be back. This is not a flash in the pan, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see eight SEC teams next season too.
Nick: One last thing. What’s your overall impression, if you’ve had a chance while we’re talking to look at the bracket, how did the whole quadrant thing work? How did you assess the committee and what they valued this year? I feel like there were some teams, when you’re getting into the pool of 32 you’re really splitting hairs with a lot of these teams. How do you feel that they valued? Did they value wins, losses? Did they value tough strength of schedule? It seemed like RPI wasn’t the be all, end all.
Eric: I would say that the biggest thing to point to is the team that everyone’s going to point to as the biggest snub is Saint Mary’s, who is 28-5, but they played no one. They had an awful strength of schedule. I don’t think that they should have gotten in, and they didn’t. Even though a lot of people are crucifying the selection committee for that, I think they made the right call. They’ve had Arizona State. That was a team that had a lot of bad losses, but a lot of good wins. You could even look at Florida, who as much as people were so doom and gloom over a bunch of the losses they took, and it looks like they were probably the highest six seed. I would say that even shows that they value high strength of schedule, and they value quality wins. Quality wins easily cover up losses.
I would say that that’s probably encouraging to the way that Florida has scheduled the last few years. They’ve always scheduled hard, and I think they should continue to do that, because the committee has shown that they’re going to reward you. If you’re a team like Saint Mary’s, who kind of hides from that process, or Oklahoma State, a power conference team that really didn’t schedule anyone in the nonconference, and they missed the tournament. That’s a good example of what happens if you’re a power conference team who decides not to play anyone in the nonconference. Strength of schedule, very important.
Nick: Florida will be playing in Dallas?
Nick: I wasn’t sure if we had said that.
Eric: I don’t think so.
Nick: Talk for 40 minutes and then not say where they’re playing their game.
Andrew: I did say it earlier.
Eric: Someone in the area was just waiting to hear if they should go get tickets or not.
Andrew: I definitely said it earlier, but we all have bad memories. We’re going to have a bracket challenge, like always. Go on the Gator Country message boards and post your email or private message one of us your email. We’ll get you in. We’ll figure out a prize for the winner. Nick, tell everybody where they can find us. We’ll get out. We’ll see everyone later in the week.
Nick: www.GatorCountry.com for all your Florida Gator news. We’ll have stuff from spring football starting this week. Obviously, throughout the Gators’ run in March Madness. So, follow along there. Podcast is on the website in audio and transcript form. You can find it @GatorCountry on iTunes. Go to Twitter, @GatorCountry. @GatorCountry on Facebook. @TheGatorCountry on Instagram. I’m @NickdelaTorreGC. He’s @EFawcett7, and @AndrewSpiveyGC.
Andrew: There you go. Softball threw another no-hitter. Kelly Barnhill.
Nick: That’s good, I guess.
Andrew: Good, I guess. It’s just starting to become a daily routine for Ms. Barnhill. Gators go for the sweep. They win it in both baseball and softball. Quick little note, softball and baseball both do walk-offs the last inning, and both with a 3-2 win.
Nick: Two walk-offs within a 90-minute span. If you were at the baseball game, you had plenty of time to get over and watch two of them.
Andrew: There you go. Guys, as always, we appreciate it. Follow my man Eric. He’ll be posting all of his good old comment from March Madness and everything else. As always, go Braves. Chomp, chomp.
Nick: You stay classy, Gator Country.