With a week off between the win over La Salle to prepare for the Battle 4 Atlantis the Gators have a chance to evaluate what went on in their opening 3-game stint before looking for some resume-building wins in the Bahamas. I too will be taking some time to evaluate what went on and though three games might not be enough to extrapolate major data we can still look at some early trends. It’s a small sample size for sure, but here are some of the interesting stats from the first three games of the season.
Jump Shot Struggles
Florida is 303rd in the nation in three-point shooting with a nasty looking 26.2%. Particularly cold are Jalen Hudson (28.5%), Deaundrae Ballard (25%), and KeVaughn Allen (18.2%) while Andrew Nembhard is starting strong at 42.9%. When you add in midrange jump shots the numbers get even uglier for the Gators as they drop to 25.4% as a team.
For the record the Gators were 40.2% on long balls after three games last season and they tailed off so how you start isn’t always how you finish when it comes to the three-ball.
To Guard Or Not To Guard
Here’s a stat that might make your head spin.
Florida is shooting 8.3% on unguarded jump shots.
Could opponents see this stat and decide they’d rather just leave the Gators open than contest them? I kid.
When you see the offense sputtering you often think about how the team could generate more open looks but for the Gators those open looks have been tougher than the contested ones right now. I think this stat is totally meaningless and there’s no way that they’ll be horrendous at shooting wide open jump shots all season but I thought it would really put into perspective how unlucky this team has been offensively this year.
Though the jump shot has betrayed them the Gators have been great when they get shots in close. They are converting on 77.5% of their layups and are 62.5% on post ups lead by Kevarrius Hayes’ 5-5 start. Another thing that’s great to see is that the Gators are scoring more off of cuts than we saw last season with 7.7% of their shots coming off cuts, and those are high percentage plays as they’re shooting 92.9%. Often times when you hit a cutter it’s because the defense has fallen asleep and that player goes in uncontested and the scoring off cuts indicates the team running good half court offense.
Turning Up The Heat
After only playing press defense 2.3% of the time last year the Gators have significantly cranked up the pressure as they’ve pressed on 26% of possessions so far. Adding the athleticism of Keyontae Johnson as well as the speed of Noah Locke and the length of Andrew Nembhard has made pressing a better option for Mike White than it has been in the past and the deeper lineup has also helped in keeping the intensity up. When the press has fallen into a zone it’s been super affective with opponents only shooting 10% and turning the ball over on 31.3% of possessions. Coach White was hesitant to press and play zone defense last year and the high volume of it so far could mean a shift in strategy, one that I am personally a fan of.
Andrew Nembhard has already looked at home in the starting point guard role and the analytics back it up. His 34.7% assist rate is already 100th in the nation and his 42.9% 3-point stroke has been excellent, but it’s his work on the defensive end that has been particularly impressive. He’s been a hawk on the basketball with 2 steals per game and the 237th highest steal rate in the country, and he hardly commits any fouls averaging 0.9 per 40 minutes. He’s also been excellent in closeout situations as he’s only allowed 15.4% when closing out, showing his defensive discipline. He has struggled in pick and roll defense with opponents shooting 62.5% when he’s guarding the player running the pick and roll and that will have to be an area he progresses in. Pick and roll defense is one of the toughest things to learn for young basketball players and he’ll continue to be attacked in that area until he can learn to get better.
As some of you may know I was pretty hard on Deaundrae Ballard last season but I’ve been really impressed with his play so far this year. He’s second on the team in scoring at 10.3 points per game and he’s been doing it efficiently with a 61.9% clip from the field. He’s started to limit his tough midrange jumper attempts and has instead looked to get to the rim and he’s been great at finishing there going 6-6 in this early stage of the season. His play in transition has also drastically improved as he’s been finding the proper lanes to fill on his way to a 62.5% conversion rate on the break. We’ve also seen a lot of strides on the defensive end at he’s been one of the best individual defenders allowing only 33.3% as the primary defender. I’m happy to be proven wrong with the great play of Ballard.
Cleaning The Glass
Two players have really established themselves as monsters on the glass and that’s Kevarrius Hayes and Keyontae Johnson. Hayes’ ability on the glass has drawn criticism in the past but he’s been good on the boards so far grabbing 21.4% of available defensive rebounds (334th nationally) and 14.2% of available offensive rebounds (134th nationally). I’m not sure how well those defensive rebounding numbers will hold up once the Gators get to tougher competition but his length and jumping ability should continue to keep the offensive rebounding numbers up. Keyontae Johnson has been a great addition to the rebounding brigade grabbing 19.6% of available defensive rebounds with his incredible leaping ability. With the Gators needing to make up some rebounding production after Koulechov’s graduation, Johnson could be the guy to pick up the slack.
It might be early, but watch to see which of these stats are just meaningless numbers from a small sample size and what numbers are indicative of what happens moving forward.