On Saturday, the Florida Gators advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 73-65 over number 10 seed UCLA.
This is Florida’s fourth trip to the Sweet 16 under Donovan. The Gators reached at least the Sweet 16 in 1999, 2000, 2006, and 2007.
Florida overcame serious foul trouble to their big men and an ankle injury to guard Kenny Boynton in the second half before pulling away late.
Sophomore forward Reeves Nelson led UCLA with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Junior guard Erving Walker led Florida with 21 points. Senior forward Alex Tyus finished with 8 points and a game high 13 rebounds.
Florida will face BYU in a rematch of last year’s 99-92 double overtime thriller.
So, who will prevail in this years matchup between the Cougars and Gators?
I’m hesitant to say it, but I’ll give Florida an edge in the sequel.
Everyone knows senior guard Jimmer Fredette is the heart and soul of BYU’s team. His 28.6 points per game average is tops in college basketball.
Nevertheless, Florida’s goal should be to contain rather than shut down the lethal guard.
Florida should copy San Diego State’s blueprint in the Mountain West tournament final. In the final, San Diego State held Fredette to 30 points on 10-for-25 shooting.
Meanwhile, his teammates scored just 24 points on 9-for-34 from the field.
San Diego State contained him, and dared his teammates to beat them, but they couldn’t do it.
The Orange and Blue should make Fredette a volume shooter and limit his sidekicks from becoming a factor.
Junior forward Noah Hartsock is averaging only 8.5 points per game, but he’s shooting 49 percent from the field and just under 42 percent from three point range.
Senior guard Jackson Emery is averaging 12.5 points per game and is shooting 42 percent from the field.
Also, Donovan's squad should attack Fredette and hope he gets into foul trouble. If he gets two fouls in the first three or four minutes of the game, the Cougars will probably be forced to sit him down for awhile.
Florida’s big men will have the edge inside. In January, BYU suffered a blow when it was announced sophomore Chris Collinsworth was out for the season with a knee injury.
For the Cougars, they are left only with Hartsock (6’8’’, 230 pounds) and junior center James Anderson (6’10”, 240 pounds) as the only viable options inside.
It is absolutely necessary for Donovan’s post players to remain active. On paper, BYU doesn’t appear to be a great rebounding team.
Hartsock leads the team with six boards per game. Junior guard/forward Charles Abouo is second with just under five rebounds per game.
Florida will need Tyus to be active on the boards and copy his 13 rebound performance (versus UCLA) against the Cougars.
Redshirt senior Vernon Macklin’s averaging 10 points and 2.5 rebounds through the first two rounds of the Big Dance. His poor rebounding total won‘t cut it. A player with his frame should have more of a presence with rebounds and blocks.
If Macklin show’s a lethargic attitude, Donovan should have no problems inserting freshman center Patric Young. Young is averaging seven points and five rebounds per game in the tournament.
The Gators cannot allow BYU second and third opportunities to score. Giving a player like Fredette two chances the score is asking for trouble.
Last year, Florida’s big men made several turnovers while trying to pass out of double teams. If they cut down on the turnovers and pass the ball to the open guards (assuming they make the shots), Florida will have no problems.
I’m still cautious with Florida’s Jekyll/Hide approach. They play well one game, but stink up the building the next game. As for a prediction, I reluctantly predict a 75-65 Gators win.