GC VIP: Around the Hoop — 1/5/22 Edition

Greetings, friends!


Now that we’re into the meat of the season you may see these newsletters on differing days week to week, so for those of you that have your clocks set to the receipt of this newsletter–I apologize.


At least SEC play is here, and I have a few thoughts about it and Florida basketball! Here we go.


I don’t think the Gators will have too many more stoppages due to health and safety protocol.


Considering the Gators had enough positive cases to have their SEC opener against Ole Miss cancelled, which is a lot, it’s unlikely the Gators will have to have another stoppage this season due to health and safety protocols. Luckily most of the players didn’t have severe symptoms after testing positive, and now moving forward the Gators can likely operate as though they won’t have stoppages, at least stoppages related to their program.


There are still plenty of chances for other teams to have stoppages, which could indirectly hurt the Gators.


Florida, after dropping a brutal game to Texas Southern and an unfortunate one to Maryland, aren’t in a great position from an NCAA Tournament resume standpoint. However, playing in the SEC, they should have plenty of chances to get quality wins.


However…some of those chances could be gone at any moment if other teams go on stoppages and games are postponed indefinitely or cancelled. For that reason, the Gators really need to make every game count, as they never know when their future opportunities for quality wins could be gone. 


Of course, there is also the chance the Gators could get lucky. Florida could be slated to play against one of the SEC’s top echelon teams and one of their players could be unable to play. It might feel weird to say it, but Florida having a number of positive cases so early in the season could be an advantage, because it feels like players missing games is inevitable for just about every team, if the season so far has been any indication.


Oh, by the way, here is where Florida sits in bracketology.


According to Bracket Matrix, a composite of the best bracketologists in the country, Florida is currently a 10-seed.


They are ahead of 8 other projected at-large teams, so they appear to be on the right side of the bubble, but far from comfortable. Much of this is related to the Texas Southern loss, which is by far and away the worst loss of any team in at-large consideration right now. In fact, they are the only team in the top 50 of the NET Rankings to take a quadrant-4 loss. 


It’s a pretty major black eye on the resume, and if Florida is close which any other teams in consideration, that loss could unfortunately help the committee with some decision making. 


Something else that hurts the Gators is that Florida State has struggled, making Florida’s win over them look a lot less impressive than it did at the time.


If you’re wanting to poke fun at a Florida State fan in your life, let them know that Florida State doesn’t have a single quadrant-1 or quadrant-2 win this season, something truly difficult to do as a high-major basketball team.


Alabama is going to test Florida’s defense greatly. 


The Gators haven’t exactly been as tight on the defensive end as Mike White would want, and they’ll face arguably their biggest challenge of the season so far against Alabama.


Alabama is loaded with talented off the dribble drivers, players that can repeatedly pressure defenses and get into the paint. Last season the Gators were ill-equipped to deal with this and the Crimson Tide got layup after layup on drives where Florida simply didn’t have enough quality perimeter defenders to stop it.


Nate Oats has a defined style at Alabama and we know exactly what we’ll see from them. It’s a gap creation offense that opens up driving lanes, and it makes things very difficult for point of attack defenders. That’s going to be a concern for Florida who has had some holes in their perimeter defense, and if there is something that’s concerning about the Alabama matchup, it’s definitely this.


Colin Castleton will have a nice matchup against Alabama, however.


Castleton has dominated smaller centers in his year and a half at Florida and he’ll have a good matchup against Alabama to go to work against. 


Often the Crimson Tide will start 7-foot 5-star center Charles Bediako, but he doesn’t get as many minutes at the five as Furman transfer Noah Gurley who stands at 6’8” and only 215 pounds. He’s a very skilled offensive player, but he doesn’t have the bulk to handle a lot of bigger centers in the SEC like, for example, Colin Castleton.


When the Gators have the Noah Gurley matchup with Castleton, it would be wise for them to exploit it. This is the exact kind of matchup that Castleton has thrived against so far in his career and it’s a key advantage the Gators have against a really good opponent.


Enjoy the game tomorrow, my friends!

Eric Fawcett
Eric hails from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His blend of sports and comedy has landed his words on ESPN, Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Lindy's and others. He loves zone defenses, the extra pass, and a 30 second shot clock. Growing up in Canada, an American channel showing SEC basketball games was his first exposure to Gator hoops, and he has been hooked ever since. You can follow him on Twitter at @Efawcett7.