Gators vs. Aggies for birth in NCAA's?

The only thing bad about winning the first game in an end-of-the-year tournament is that the next team you play is likely better than the one you just beat. Florida goes from beating 9th seed Arkansas in a tough 68-61 game to facing the No.1 seed Texas A&M Aggies Friday at 1 p.m. in Nashville, Tennessee.

Florida Gators (19-13) vs #17 Texas A&M Aggies (24-7)

Friday March 11, 2016; 1 p.m.

Nashville, Tennessee; Bridgestone Arena

TV: SEC Network

The Gators are now on a two game run, something they haven’t been able to say since February 3, and maybe more importantly, these Gators took the Aggies to the limit when they faced them in College Station in the early part of January.

In the first matchup, the Gators defended well holding the Aggies to 36.1% from the field and 30.4% from the three point line. The Gators countered with a decent shooting night hitting 44.3% from the field and 38.5% from the three-point line.  The all-too-common issues at the free throw line and Florida hit just 4-of-12 on the night, while the Aggies poured in 20-of-30 from the charity stripe. In a contest that ended 71-68, those misses from the line were huge.

Still, Florida got some assurance that they can hang with the really veteran Aggies who start four seniors. With senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith playing just 26 minutes Wednesday due to foul trouble and only freshman guard KeVaughn Allen hitting over the 30-minute mark, the Gators may not be as gassed as some might expect for a team playing a day after a contest against the Aggies who are coming in totally fresh after having a bye on Thursday.

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Florida Projected Starters

Ht. / Wt.

P/ RPG

13

F Kevarrius Hayes

6-9, 210

2.1/2.5

10

F Dorian Finney-Smith (SR)

6-8, 220

15.0/8.2

3

F Devin Robinson

6-8, 195

9.3/5.7

4

G KeVaughn Allen (FR)

6-2, 183

11.4/2.7

11

G Chris Chiozza (SO)

6-0, 175

7.4/4.4a

 

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Texas A&M Projected Starters

Ht./Wt.

P/RPG

23

G Danuel House (SR)

6-7, 212

15.3/4.8

12

F Jalen Jones (SR)

6-7, 212

15.8/7.2

34

C Tyler Davis (FR)

6-10, 264

11.2/6.0

1

G Anthony Collins (SR)

6-1, 175

4.8/4.3a

21

G Alex Caruso (SR)

6-5, 186

7.8/5.1a

 

As far as familiarity from head coach Mike White with the Aggies, he left the scouting for that game up to his assistants. He was totally honed in to Arkansas coming into the tournament. So, for now he will have to think back to the first matchup where the Aggies have the same five starters.

“It's funny, as you're coming into these type deals, especially with the adjustment that we made in terms of trying to avoid the bubble talk and the NCAA Tournament and bracketology, this and that, over the last couple of weeks, 100 percent of our focus was on the Hogs,” White told the media shortly after his the Gators’ win over Arkansas. “It seems like a year ago since I've watched Texas A&M. So this is literally coming off the top of my head.

“That game, it just seemed so long ago, but I can tell you, remembering the end of the game, we obviously were in there. We had our chances. I think Texas A&M obviously, they've had a tremendous year. They've done a great job. They have incredible balance and role definition on their team. They're a team.”

White says the Aggies can do a bit of everything and the veteran group just doesn’t have a soft spot to attack.

“I don't think (there are) a lot of teams in the country you can say this about that don't have a glaring weakness,” White said. “They defend at a high level. They have a bunch of veterans. They make great decisions. They have some guys that can really, really shoot it. They've got depth. They can throw it to the interior and score. They can score their back to the basket. Their backup big guy can score from beyond the arc. So it gives you a couple different looks there. And then they have two veteran guards who are as good as there is in the league in assist-turnover ratio like Jabril Durham, just intelligent, tough nosed, solid guards that play well with one another, and they both can make shots as well.

Just like the first time they met in January, Florida struggled again Thursday from the free throw line. They have to do better there.

“We've got, I know relative to today's performance, we've got to shoot the free throw at a higher rate. We've got to convert from three. We had some costly turnovers today. I just think we're capable of making better decisions because we've done it here recently. And then, of course, we've got to defend it as well as we've defended all year.”

Most project a Gator win and they will be in the NCAA Tournament next week with a 20th win and a very high strength of schedule. That certainly isn’t a given, but it is unlikely they are in if they don’t win Friday. So, they should play hungry and certainly have a lot more to play for than the 17th ranked Aggies who should be a 6-seed or higher when the pairings are made on Sunday. 


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