Gators Should Roll Into Round Two Of NCAA

The Florida basketball team got as good a draw as it could hope for in this year's NCAA Tournament and clearly have their best shot at the Sweet 16 in six years. South Alabama certainly has some strengths but not nearly enough of them to get in the way of Florida reaching round two.

The Jaguars enter the game with a 24-6 record and eight-game winning streak. But there is not a single win over an NCAA Tournament team and there are significant losses. The Jaguars fell to a lousy Purdue team by 18 points early in the season. Tennessee beat South Alabama by 18 as well but it could have been much more one-sided. The Vols were up 15 at halftime and coasted the rest of the way.

The loss that really screams at me is when the Jaguars fell to Alabama State 78-75. That's the same Alabama State group the Gators waxed 87-to-60 just three weeks before the Jaguars lost to them.

Yes, South Alabama plays a version of Billy Ball (Pelphrey-for-all?) and that full court pressure has to be a bit of a concern. However the Jaguars have no real inside game. They have no player averaging five rebounds a game.

But they can really shoot it. USA hits 36 percent from long range and eight different players have made 13 or more threes. In their last two losses they shot less than 20 percent on those tries.

Five Keys To Victory

Take care of the ball: The Jaguars will force some turnovers. The Gators will commit some unforced turnovers, but the number has to be reasonable. Anything over 15 will open the door just a bit. Anything over 20 could be disastrous

Defend the perimeter: The Jaguars have hit double-digit threes on nine occasions this season, all wins. Florida's perimeter defenders can not offer any help when the ball goes into the post, or it will come right back to a wide-open shooter.

Pound the ball inside: Major Wingate, not a great low post scorer put 17 on the board against this team in just 26 minutes. Joakim Noah and Al Horford can score at will in this game. Patience on offense is a must to make sure the big fellas get their touches.

Transition defense can't rest: There have been times this season when the Gators did not get back, especially after inside baskets. South Alabama will exploit easy transition scoring opportunities every time.

Hodge must help: The Gators' lone reliable perimeter reserve played just eleven minutes a game in Nashville and scored a total of two points. He played 24 minutes at Kentucky in the regular-season finale' and scored nine points. That's the kind of productivity Florida needs to get.

I don't think Florida's recent tournament history is much of a factor in this game, because most of these guys didn't experience it. Al Horford may feel he has something to prove. He did not score a point and committed seven fouls in 46 minutes of action in last year's NCAA games against Ohio and Villanova. This is a game that should let Horford post some serious numbers.


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