Ack's Insights

In this week's edition of Ack's Insights, I preview Florida's first round game against Manhattan, talk a little spring football and much more.

Florida will play in the dangerous #5 vs #12 game on Thursday in Raleigh, North Carolina. Many people don't know much about the Manhattan Jaspers of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Jaspers, at 24-5, are the typical Mid-Major power. They have three seniors who average in double figures, led by Luis Flores at 24 ppg. They play an up-tempo transition style of basketball that will test UF's weak transition defense. Defensively, they will press out of made baskets and look to trap in the half court. They are not a big team going 6'5" ,6'6" and 6'7" across the front, but they did out rebound their opponents on the season. They are not a great shooting team at 44% and 37% behind the arc but they do lead the nation in free throw shooting and get to the line by slashing and cutting a bunch. Bobby Gonzalez is the head coach and he is rumored to be heading to St. Johns to resurrect their struggling program. Of all the mid major teams UF could play in the first round, Manahattan is a good one from the preparation standpoint. Gonzalez and Donovan are friends and Billy is very familiar with their style of play. Last season Manhattan stayed with eventual National Champion Syracuse in the first round before losing 76-65. The Jaspers play seven players twenty minutes or more and do have a short bench. The weakness is inside where they are not good post defenders and David Lee should have the opportunity to have a twenty point game.
Marquee Win: Richmond 70-62 (Dec. 20)
Marquee Loss: at Syracuse 69-63 (Dec. 17th)
Last Loss at Rider (Feb 26th) 57-56
Last win over Niagara (March 8th) 62-61

Snippetts and Tidbits
Spring Football has begun and UF has lost Jimtavis Walker at the running back position. He will look to transfer and find more playing time elsewhere with Ciatrick Fason and DeShawn Wynn in front of him. This will effect some of the spring drills as UF tries to develop it's running attack with new offensive lineman and offensive coordinator Larry Fedora. Fason and Wynn have had a history of getting knicked up and Skyler Thornton could be the beneficiary of the extra snaps. Expect signee Marcus Manson to play right away in the fall as UF likes to carry four backs on their travel list for special teams and emergency duty.

Everyone will be focusing on the cornerbacks and there ability to cover in the spring but the pass rush will be the key. Expect Marcus Thomas, at around 275 pounds, to become very productive on the inside. He has the quickness and the size to be a good run pass threat on the defensive line. He has actually trimmed up and worked on his quickness to become an "Ellis Johnson" type defensive tackle. Ray McDonald is his running mate and he too offers a lot of quickness at the interior part of the defensive line. With McDonald and Thomas on the field UF can get a lot of pressure with their four man lines because one of the quick guys expects to be double teamed. Look for it to be Thomas and McDonald will return to early season form from last year.

UF will continue to work on Special Teams as part of Spring Practice. UF will look to improve it's return games from the standpoint of getting some all the way back for touchdowns. While last season provided much improvement Coach Zook would like to see a kickoff return go for a touchdown. Also punt block will be an emphasis as Zook will look to see who can emerge as a candidate to block kicks. Last year Jermaine McCollum was the best UF had and could be again this season. One thing that has changed the way you attack some teams is the Rugby punt. It is unique and difficult to go after with the punter rolling out and kicking the ball.

Steve Spurrier was at the Georgia Dome supporting his alma mater and visiting with Jeremy Foley. Spurrier was not there to work his way into a job just to meet with some friends and catch the Gators in one of his favorite venues, the Georgia Dome. Here is the latest Spurrier Rumor. He is not going to Texas because he does not want to face his good buddy Bobby Stoops. Yet he is headed to Tennessee where they want Phil Fulmer out and of course the once loathed Spurrier would be returning home to coach the Vols. One problem with this rumor is that he would then have to face his alma mater every year in Florida. I think he will coach next year and my top three guesses would be (if they are open) are –
1. Texas
2. North Carolina
3. NFL

Finally the rumors about Ed Zaunbrecher continue to surface when discussing his future with Florida. Zaunbrecher obviously would move on if a good job became available but right now is working very hard and preparing for his new role in Spring Practice.

More Hoops
The MAAC, which Manhattan plays in, was the 16th rated conference in the RPI conference ratings out of 31. They do own one upset win in tournament history in 1995 when they beat Oklahoma.

This is the sixth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance for the Gators under Billy Donovan.P rior to his arrival they had made five in school history.

The Florida Gators own a 5-2 record all-time as a number five seed in the tournament.

Florida's win over Alabama last Friday night was UF's first overtime win in an SEC Tournament game.

Manhattan forces almost 17 turnovers per game while only turning it over 13 times per game.

The last time UF was a five seed it played it's first round games in the state of North Carolina, squared off with a mid major who had won 20+ games, headed to the Northeast for it's regional and had Oklahoma State in it's bracket it went on to play in the RCA Dome for the National Title. Maybe it's a reach but isn't that why they call it March Madness?

Stat of the Week: 4-1
UF's record all-time vs teams from the MAAC. The only loss was to Iona. UF is 2-0 all time vs Manahattan with the last victory coming in 1977.

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