NCAA Bracket 2011 Predictions: Previewing BYU Cougars vs. Florida Gators

Sean ZerilloCorrespondent IIMarch 24, 2011

NCAA Bracket 2011 Predictions: Previewing BYU Cougars vs. Florida Gators

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    OKLAHOMA CITY - MARCH 18:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the BYU Cougars drives for a shot attempt against Kenny Boynton #1 of the Florida Gators during the first round of the 2010 NCAA men�s basketball tournament at Ford Center on March 18, 2010 in Oklahoma Cit
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Based on the conferences they come from, both the Florida Gators and the Brigham Young Cougars are exactly the opposite of the types of teams you'd expect them to be.

    Florida plays under the bright lights of the SEC. While not known primarily for basketball, it is a major conference that has sent more than its fair share of great players on to NBA success. 

    But this Gators team lacks star power. Instead, it is a robotic unit of passing efficiency that seems to enjoy sharing the role of leading scorer.

    The Brigham Young Cougars play in the relative anonymity of the Mountain West Conference.

    Although both they and San Diego State have been ranked for much of the year, UNLV is the only program in the division with any semblance of real basketball tradition.

    It seems odd, then, that BYU will easily have the best player on the floor in guard Jimmer Fredette.

    The senior takes a larger percentage of his team's shots (38 percent) than any other player in the country, edging out Cameron Jones of Northern Arizona (37.6 percent).

    The matchup is a rematch of last year's first-round game, which saw the No. 7-seeded Cougars knock off the No. 10 Gators in double overtime, 99-92. Fredette went for 37 points.   

    After the jump, we'll break down the key components of this matchup. 

    Data courtesy of www.kenpom.com.

No. 10 Brigham Young Cougars (33-2)

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 19:  Head coach Dave Rose of the Brigham Young Cougars gestures from the bench against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Pepsi Center on March 19, 2011 in Denver, Colorado.  (Pho
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    As the No. 3 seed in the Southeast region, the Cougars will be the "away team" this time around. The crowd in New Orleans should be pretty split with the neutral fans siding with Jimmer and his boys.

    Head coach Dave Rose has guided BYU to a 32-4 record this season with a 14-2 mark in Mountain West play.

    He won the conference for the fourth time in his six seasons as head coach. 

    After taking over the basketball program in 2005 where he was previously an assistant for eight seasons, Rose took a 9-21 team and went 20-9, reaching the second round of the NIT.

    He's won at least 25 games and made the NCAA tournament every year since. Last season's victory over Florida was his first in the NCAA tournament.

    This time around, Rose's team has already gotten the best of Wofford (74-66) and Gonzaga (89-67). 

    He has already figured out how to beat a very good (and much bigger) San Diego State team twice this season.

    BYU fell in the finals of its conference tournament, however, without the services of suspended forward Brandon Davies. 

    Florida is a very big basketball team, and it rebounds much better than it did a season ago. 

    Look for Rose to have his team control the shot clock and be as efficient as possible on offense. Florida is deeper and bigger—there's no need to get in a shootout.  

No. 15 Florida Gators (28-7)

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    TAMPA, FL - MARCH 13:  Ray Shipman #3 talks with head coach Billy Donovan of the Florida Gators during the game against the Auburn Tigers during the quaterfinal round of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament on March 13, 2009 at The St. Pete Times Forum in
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    Since winning back-to-back national championships with the Gators in 2006 and 2007, taking a five-year, $27.5 million deal from the Orlando Magic and then ultimately deciding to stay in Gainesville, Billy Donovan hasn't been in the spotlight much at all.

    In fact, after Florida's second title, Donovan had to replace his entire team and missed out on the NCAA tournament altogether for two straight seasons.

    A first-round exit against BYU last year was actually a step in the right direction.

    This year, an experienced club led by seniors Vernon Macklin, Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus went 28-7 and captured the SEC regular season crown. They lost in the finals of the conference tournament to Kentucky.

    Donovan molded Parsons into the SEC player of the year despite being the conference's 25th-leading scorer.

    Parsons, a 6'9" forward, does everything for the Gators. He shoots threes, plays sound defense, generates assists and fights for rebounds.

    The attitude of doing everything you can on the court has allowed this team to gel and share responsibility in order to win games.

    There may be no stars on this Gators roster, but they certainly play like a unit.

    Credit Billy Donovan for molding such a gritty and effective team.

Cougars on Offense

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    DENVER, CO - MARCH 17:  Jimmer Fredette #32 of the Brigham Young Cougars shoots the ball over Brad Loesing #35 of the Wofford Terriers during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Pepsi Center on March 17, 2011 in Denver, Colora
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Strengths

    - According to tempo adjusted efficiency, BYU has the eighth-most efficient offense in the country.

    - BYU turns the ball over on just 15.3 percent of its possessions, the third-best mark of any team in the country. Wisconsin is No. 1 in this category.

    - The Cougars shoot 76 percent from the charity stripe, the 15th-best mark among all teams.

    - Jimmer Fredette will be the best point scorer on the court at all times. He has gone for 30 or more points in six of his past seven games. This included a 52-point day against New Mexico in the Mountain West tournament.

    - Jimmer has also done it to Florida before.

    Weaknesses

    - The Cougars rarely get offensive rebounds. They rank 222nd in this category, and this includes data from when they did have Brandon Davies.

    - They tend to live and die by the three-point shot. BYU ranked 282nd in its percentage of points coming from inside the arc.

    - If Jimmer gets shut down, the game is over. Senior guard Jackson Emery is a good shooter himself, but he's not in Jimmer's class.

Gators on Defense

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    TAMPA, FL - MARCH 17:  Chandler Parsons #25 of the Florida Gators defends against the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos during the second round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at St. Pete Times Forum on March 17, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. Florida won 79
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Strengths

    - The Gators defend the three-point shot well, finishing 30th in the country. This spells trouble for Jimmer's outside shooting.

    - They are good at avoiding shooting fouls and letting the opponent get to the line.

    - They rebound well enough defensively, though they are not an elite unit by any means.

    Weaknesses

    - They don't generate a lot of turnovers. Florida is ranked 219th in terms of getting the ball without a shot being taken. This could pose a problem with BYU's phenomenal ability to hold on to the ball.

    - They don't defend two-point shots well or get a lot of blocks despite their size.

Gators on Offense

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    TAMPA, FL - MARCH 19:  Erving Walker #11 of the Florida Gators attempts a shot in the first half against the Tyler Lamb #1 of the UCLA Bruins during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at St. Pete Times Forum on March 19, 2011 in
    Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    Strengths

    - The Gators rebound on the offensive glass as well as any team in the country. They grabbed an offensive board on 38 percent of their possessions, good for 10th in the nation.

    - Despite not being able to defend inside, the Gators are very effective at getting to the offensive rim. They have a 51.4 percent shooting rate on two-point shots.

    - They spread the ball around. It doesn't matter who the leading scorer is at the end of the night, so long as the team wins.

    - Erving Walker is their most explosive offensive player and can go off for 20-plus at any time if he gets hot. The kid can spot up from anywhere.

    Weaknesses

    - If the game is close in the late stages, the Gators could be doomed. They shoot just 67 percent from the line, good for 243rd in the country.

    - Although their national championships teams were extremely poor free-throw shooting teams as well, this Gators group doesn't have the same quality of talent.

    - The Gators turn the ball over more than they should. Extra possessions mean extra points for Jimmer and the BYU offense.

Cougars on Defense

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 11:  A.J. Hardeman #00 of the New Mexico Lobos is fouled by Charles Abouo #1 # of the Brigham Young University Cougars as BYU's Kyle Collinworth defends during a semifinal game of the Conoco Mountain West Conference Basketball tourna
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Strengths

    - The Cougars are a lot better at rebounding on the defensive end. They rank 41st in defensive rebounding efficiency.

    - The strength of their defense also lies in defending the two-point shot. They ranked in the 50s both for two-point shooting percentage against and percentage of points coming via the two-point shot.

    - They generate a good number of steals and bust down the court in the transition game.

    Weaknesses

    - They aren't spectacular at any one thing.

    - With the exception of San Diego State, they haven't faced an offense as versatile as Florida's.

    - All four games they've lost have come against opponents who spread the scoring love.

Prediction

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    TAMPA, FL - MARCH 19:  Chandler Parsons #25 of the Florida Gators celebrates after Flordia won 73-65 against the UCLA Bruins during the third round of the 2011 NCAA men's basketball tournament at St. Pete Times Forum on March 19, 2011 in Tampa, Florida.
    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Of all the hotly contested Sweet 16 games, the team I have the most confidence in to win is the Florida Gators.

    This is the game where the loss of Brandon Davies will finally catch up with BYU.

    Florida is just too big and strong inside. The Gators are going to dominate BYU around the rim on both ends of the floor.

    Billy Donovan is also a tremendous coach, and he'll obviously have a game plan in place to stop Fredette from going off once again.

    To win, BYU is going to need to dominate in the turnover department and be as efficient as possible on the offensive end.

    The Cougars will need to crack Florida's aggressive defense and get at least one point per possession, while playing sound defense themselves, in order to win.

    I just don't see it happening.

    I think the Gators will roll, 72-61.