ON THE PERIMETER: This is one of the best matchups of the NCAA tournament. Both teams have strong perimeter games with two big-time scorers on the wings and both teams like to spot players around the arc to fire up the three-ball. Florida's Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh had horrendous shooting games against Ohio in the first game so it's doubtful the two of them will shoot poorly a second game in a row. Roberson will probably go head to head with Mike Nardi, Nova's 6-1 sophomore point guard who leads the team with 103 assists while averaging 8.5 points per game. Walsh will likely draw the assignment of Randy Foye, 6-3 and very quick, averaging 15.0 and 5.1 rebounds per game. This is probably the single most critical matchup for the Gators on defense. Florida will have to find a way to give Walsh some help if Foye tries to use his quickness to go to the rack. Florida's 6-8 freshman Corey Brewer will probably get the assignment of locking down junior Allen Ray, Nova's top scorer at 16.8 per game. If Brewer is able to shut down Ray, Florida should be in very good shape to win the game. Nova launches an average of 18 threes per game. Against New Mexico in round one, the Wildcats tried 29 three-balls and only 24 shots from inside the arc. Ray was 1-9 from three-point land.
OFF THE BENCH: There's no question that Florida has far more quality off the bench, particularly in the front court where the Gators can bring in three experienced players and Nova pretty much has just one big guy to counter. This is where Florida has a chance to dominate the game. If the Gators can establish inside presence early and get the ball down on the blocks often enough, the Gators can put Sumpter and Sheridan on the bench in foul trouble, forcing Fraser to go it alone. For Florida to do that, Richard has to show the same consistent effort he's shown the past three games. Moss and Noah should see a lot of time in the game, too. The strategy should be to wear down the Wildcats inside with the inside strength off the bench. On the perimeter, the Wildcats are pretty much have only one player, 6-0 freshman Kyle Lowery. Again, Florida has some options here with Taurean Green and Lee Humphrey off the bench. Green has been super steady in recent games and Humphrey has rediscovered the three-ball that deserted him for about three weeks in February.
COACHING: No one doubts Billy Donovan anymore. This has been a superb coaching job. He brought Florida's young players along at a nice pace and once he got them integrated fully integrated in the defensive schemes he was able to turn the Gators loose with the best defense Florida has seen since the 2000 team went to the national finals with their press till you puke approach. Unlike the 2000 team, the Gators are not a great pressing team but they play serious defense on the perimeter and they are not afraid to strap it on in a half court defensive struggle. Nova Coach Jay Wright has the Wildcats on a two-year probation for recruiting violations although the NCAA deemed the violations not serious enough to prevent going to the big dance. Wright likes a perimeter game with a lot of threes and a gambling defense. Nova's guards like to shoot gaps to come up with steals. That's Wright's way of compensating for the shortcomings the Wildcats have inside. This is the biggest coaching game of Wright's career. For Donovan, it's another big game, but he's already taken a team to the NCAA finals, so he's been there and done that. Big game experience will come in handy for Billy D.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Florida needs to run in this game after turnovers, but if the break's not there on a turnover, walk it up the court and pound it inside. If the Gators get into a helter-skelter up and down matchup, Nova has a couple of quickness advantages that won't work well for the Gators. While Florida has proven it can play just about any style effectively, this is not the kind of team with which you get into a run and shoot affair. Florida can exploit Nova's weaknesses inside if the Gators will move the ball patiently and look for openings to get the ball down deep to Lee. If the Gators can find Lee and the combination of Horford and Richard can consistently block out to create space for Lee to operate, the Gators will win the game. If Florida tries to engage the Wildcats in a track meet, it will not bode well.
PREDICTION: David Lee dominates and the Gators make travel plans for the Carrier Dome.