HOOPS GAMEDAY BREAKDOWN: UF Vs. Ohio U

Here's a breakdown of Friday's first round NCAA matchup between the Florida Gators and the Ohio University Bobcats in Nashville. Florida comes into the game as a number four seed in the tournament with a 23-7 record and winners of seven straight games. Ohio University is the champion of the Mid-America Conference. The Bobcats are 21-10 this year.

WHAT'S UP FRONT: For Florida, David Lee (6-9) continued to play like a man possessed in the SEC Tournament last week. His 17-rebound performance against Kentucky in the SEC title game broke the tournament single game record. What's helped to make Lee so good in the SEC season has been the remarkable play of freshman Al Horford. Horford (6-8) has played serious post defense in the low blocks and equally important, he blocks out on every play, creating space that has allowed Lee to become a dominating rebounder. Horford and Lee combined for 26 rebounds against Kentucky, equaling Kentucky's entire team effort. The two big guys have gotten quality backup play from Adrian Moss and Chris Richard. Richard came through with two of his more solid performances of the year in the SEC semis against Alabama and then in the final against Kentucky. He's a 6-8, 245-pound physical specimen who was meant to bang. Moss (6-9, 250) has become Florida's enforcer. Because of his back problems, he still gives only limited minutes but during his time in the game he makes his presence known physically. Against Ohio U, which is less physical than most of the teams the Gators have played down the stretch, 6-11 freshman Joakim Noah should get some minutes too. He's got the aggressiveness as a shot blocker to cause some problems for the less physical and shorter Bobcats. The Bobcats have only one true inside player and that's 6-8, 240-pound freshman center Leon Williams, who averages 12 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Terren Harbut has a banger's body (6-6, 235) but a ballerina's rebounding numbers (3.8 per game). Off the bench, the Bobcats have 6-10 Clay McGowen, who averages 1.8 points per game. Williams will be up against his equal in Horford. There's no way that Harbut can handle Lee's inside presence or Lee's ability to put the ball on the floor and go to the hoop.

ADVANTAGE: Florida

ON THE PERIMETER: Freshman Corey Brewer came through in a big way in Atlanta, creating a third perimeter option for the Gators behind Anthony Roberson and tournament MVP Matt Walsh, who delivered a game-high 26 points in the Kentucky game. Brewer became a slasher in the tournament, consistently taking the ball to the rack. When Brewer becomes a threat, it creates holes in the perimeter defense for Walsh and Roberson to spot up. Roberson's ability to go to the hole with the ball has also opened things up for Walsh. Off the bench, Lee Humphrey seems to have rediscovered his jumper from three-point range, and when Taurean Green comes into the game, Roberson will slide to the wing to become a shooter. The Bobcats have perimeter players who don't play the traditional perimeter game. Ohio U only shoots 32 per cent from beyond the arc, so they're not a catch and shoot team. Their job is to take the ball to the rack and get to the foul line. Ohio U has been to the line more than 250 times more than opponents this year. In fact, the Bobcats have made more free throws than their opponents have attempted. Mychal Green (6-4) is their leading scorer (14.7). Jeremy Fears (6-3) plays the point (11.1 points per game) and the other wing is Sonny Troutman (6-5) who averages 12.6 points. Diamond Gladney (6-0) backs up Fears at the point and Whitney Davis (6-4) and Jeff Halbert (6-5) are the wing reserves. Halbert averages 6.9 points per game. Ohio's hope is to get Walsh and Roberson in foul trouble. If Walsh provides decent defense and Roberson doesn't have a problem, the Gators will be in good shape offensively. Brewer is quicker and taller than any defender Green has faced this season. If Brewer locks down Green, the game's basically over.

ADVANTAGE: Florida

BENCH: The way that Richard and Moss have stepped it up inside has been the biggest plus for the Gators. That's allowed Lee and Horford to get rested without sacrificing the Gators physical presence inside. Now that Humphrey's shot has returned, the Gators have an outside scorer off the bench. Green has been a solid distributor when he plays the point and he's provided the Gators with very good defense. The Bobcats have a lean bench with only Halbert providing any significant points. McGowen is the backup for Williams, but he will have real problems with Horford in the post. Florida's backups in the post are going to create further problems for a team that doesn't have much inside help. Where the Gators have the advantage is that Florida doesn't give up anything defensively when Moss and Richard come in the game.

ADVANTAGE: Florida

COACHING: Ohio U's Tim O'Shea has transformed the Bobcats into a quality team in the Mid-America Conference. He's a good bench coach who teaches his team well to stay with the things they do best. Billy Donovan has become an outstanding bench coach. This is his seventh straight year of taking the Gators to the NCAA Tournament, and this is probably the best chance he's had to make a run in the big dance since the 2000 squad made it to the final game. That team entered the tournament without injuries or issues, hot and pretty much on a roll. Florida's 2005 team enters the tournament without injuries or issues, winners of seven straight games including a week in which they beat Kentucky twice.

ADVANTAGE: Florida

FINAL ANALYSIS: For Florida to lose this game, the Gators have to play poorly in every phase of the game. In past years, if Florida didn't shoot well, you could figure the Gators would lose, but this team has proven it can have an off game in different areas and still find ways to win. What the Gators do best these days is play outstanding defense and rebound the basketball. The Gators will be the best rebounding team Ohio U has faced this season, and at no time have the Bobcats faced a team that has the offensive weapons Florida can bring to the court. Where the game will be won is on the perimeter defense and on the inside where the Bobcats have no possible answer for Lee and Horford.

PREDICTION: Florida is a team that no one wants to play right now. The Gators are peaking at the right time and hitting the floor with enough weapons that they can win in a number of ways. The Bobcats are going to try to run with the Gators. Bad move Bobcats. Florida wins.


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