Things aren’t exactly going according to plan for Florida basketball, but they’ve got a huge opportunity Wednesday night to get back on track.
Here are some thoughts I’m having before that game!
Florida’s start to the SEC season is about as tough as it gets in college basketball.
You could argue this with the eye test, but you can also use numbers. According to KenPom’s strength of schedule metric, Florida’s January is the second hardest in all of college basketball behind only Texas Tech, and looking at three game slates, Alabama then Auburn then LSU is about as hard as it gets.
What does that mean, functionally?
Some people won’t agree, but it’s possible (not saying this is the case, just that it’s POSSIBLE, let me reiterate) that the Gators could start SEC play 0-3 but be a lot better than perception. In a vacuum, or perhaps three vacuums, I should say, losses to these three teams aren’t bad. However, put them three in a row…and it doesn’t look great. Of course, given Florida’s non-conference performance, they haven’t exactly built up much favor to be given the benefit of the doubt if they go down 0-3.
LSU is going to be a tough matchup.
LSU is the number one defense in the country while also leading the country in turnovers forced.
What are Florida’s biggest problems right now? Scoring and turning the ball over.
So, this looks like a really difficult matchup for the Gators. What makes Florida’s offensive struggles look even worse on the season when you get a closer look is that the Gators have struggled to score against a lot of teams that, well, aren’t that good defensively. Florida State is usually a defensive juggernaut but they’ve actually struggled this year, as is the case with Alabama. Ohio State was a marquee opponent and a quality win, but they’re in the bottom half of the Big 10 defensively. Really, the only great defensive team the Gators have played is Auburn. So, they’ll have a huge challenge against LSU, and the matchup is a bit concerning.
One matchup that could be in Florida’s favor is at center. LSU doesn’t have a huge front court and they’re favorite lineup features 6’7” Darius Days at the five. Colin Castleton just had a tremendous game against Auburn banging with 7’1” Walker Kessler and 6’11” Dylan Cardwell, so this might be a matchup the Gators need to lean on him once again.
Florida might need to go to an underutilized option to combat LSU’s defense.
LSU packs the paint and switches everything on the perimeter to take away driving lanes, meaning they force opponents to shoot a lot of threes, preferably off the dribble.
Right now the Gators lack a lot of options to exploit that kind of defense, but this might be an opportunity to unleash a player who has shown elite shot creation and shot making ability during his high school career.
The 6’7” gunner can create his own shot, and is a better shooter creating for himself than catching a pass with a teammate then winding up. Reeves hasn’t been used a ton this season, though he played 9 productive minutes against Auburn where he didn’t get shots up but earned some trust from the coaching staff with his defense. This is a game where his skill set is going to be needed, and I hope he gets the opportunity to help out the team by using his shot making against an LSU team that has thrived making the likes of Florida’s wing starters take perimeter shots they’re uncomfortable with.
Look for the Gators to change up some rotations.
Simply put, the current starting lineup hasn’t really been getting the job done and the Gators are likely to change things up and see what else could work.
I think they’d love to play Phlandrous Fleming a bit more and maybe incorporate him in the starting lineup but he has really struggled with conditioning since the Gators’ pause. However, when he’s back to 100% he is definitely someone I could see starting regularly.
Another player I think will get starting consideration is CJ Felder who seems to get better with every game he plays. It does seem that White hasn’t been quite as sold, particularly on Tuesday where he mentioned that Felder’s motor in practice hasn’t been what it needs to be, but in terms of on court production he has been a positive player.
Getting Felder more minutes could also mean Anthony Duruji could get moved to the small forward spot, making the Gators a lot longer. That could help them out defensively, where they haven’t been great, and when it comes to rebounding, where they have been really poor.
Against LSU I am cautiously expecting a bit of a different look from Florida’s rotations and that could begin with the starting lineup.
Enjoy the game tonight! Go Gators!