Expectations were high for the Florida Gators after being ousted by Louisville in the Elite Eight last season.
They’ve lived up to those expectations so far, and some would say Florida has even exceeded them. Ranked tenth in the AP and coaches preseason polls, the Gators currently rank fourth in both while sitting at 6-0 in SEC Conference play.
Having a home game tonight against SEC opponent South Carolina, here’s why the Gators are perhaps the most dangerous team in the country:
Defense, Defense, Defense
The Gators have risen to number four in the nation by playing great defense.
Their stingy defense, currently ranked third in the nation, has allowed opponents to score only 51.2 points per game while shooting only 36.1 percent from the field (good for ninth in the country).
Florida's rebounding numbers don’t tell the whole story as they rank 123rd in the nation, grabbing only 36.3 rebounds per game. The number that matters is their rebounding margin, currently +8.6 rebounds per game. They’re allowing opponents to corral 27.7 rebounds per game, including only 7.6 coming on the offensive end, not giving them many second chance shots.
Combine their defensive prowess with their rebounding and you have a team that doesn’t allow many first or second chance points.
Well Balanced Offense
Much the same as their rebounding, the overall numbers don’t tell the whole story for the Gators on offense.
Averaging only 73.7 points per game, 48th in the nation, their scoring margin sits at 22.6 points per game, placing them second in the nation. It is this kind of overall efficiency that makes them so dangerous.
Add in the fact that four players are averaging over 11 points per game, and you have a team that is going to be tough to stop.
The area where most defensive teams struggle is creating shots on offense. The Gators don’t have this problem.
Kenny Boynton is one of the quickest guard in the country that can penetrate and find open shooters on the outside. Mike Rosario, the Rutgers transfer (still bitter about this), has never been a shy shooter, but is shooting a career high 35 percent from three-point range this year.
The Gators most dynamic scorer is 6’10” senior Erik Murphy. Murphy is able to stretch defenses because of his three-point shooting ability (47 percent from three this season), providing a match-up nightmare for opponents.
Coaching and Experience
What sets the Gators apart is the mental make-up of the players on the court and their coach on the sidelines.
Billy Donovan remains one of the best coaches in the nation, building a perennial championship contender in Gainesville. He’s been to the NCAA Tournament 12 times, reached the championship game three times and has heard “One Shining Moment” twice in his career. With Donovan on the sidelines, the Gators always remain dangerous.
Blend Donovan with the group of upperclassmen who returned from last year and this team becomes even more dangerous.
Only one freshman sees significant minutes (Michael Frazier II), while the rest of the minutes go to juniors and seniors. Florida's starting lineup features three seniors and two juniors, who have all experienced the Elite Eight twice in the past two years (even Rosario who did not play two years ago because of transferring, but was still with the team).
The deadly combination of stingy defense, efficient offense and experience both on the sidelines and on the court make the Florida Gators one of the most dangerous teams in the nation.