Assessing Gator Hoops Through Seven Games

Tuesday night's relatively easy win over Florida A&M has the Gator Basketball team 7-0 heading into a Friday night game at Jacksonville. Florida has posted two wins over teams in the AP Top 25 in Michigan State and Florida State along with five other victories over teams unlikely to be NCAA contenders this spring.

Florida has changed significantly over the team that represented UF the past two seasons and those changes bode well for the future. So at what is the halfway part of the non-conference schedule let's take a look at some of the most important factors where this team is concerned.

Defensive commitment ---- Florida is so much better defensively than the past two year's it's almost comical. Through seven games the Gators are letting teams shoot just 38 percent from the field and 20 percent from beyond the arc. Only one team, Michigan State has topped 60 points. The additions of Vernon Macklin and Kenny Boynton are two of the biggest reasons for that improvement as well as the increasing role of Ray Shipman and the mindset of Chandler Parsons.

Balancing act ---- It's no longer a one man gang for the Gators no matter the opponent. Florida's leading scorer (Boynton 13.7) managed one point against FAMU but Dan Werner had a season high 16. Five Gators are averaging in double figures and that doesn't include Werner (7.3). There's a reason why the Gators were so good in 2006 and 2007. It's much harder to defend a balanced team than one where one guy dominates the score sheet.

Loving the freebies ---- Florida has done an excellent job at the free throw line, shooting 71 percent as a team. Erving Walker (78%) leads the way and six of the top eight guys are at 70 percent or above. The only exceptions are Macklin (8-13) and Shipman (6-12) and Macklin has made six straight after a 2-7 start.


Still there is plenty of room for improvement for this team as they head to Jacksonville and prepare for major tests against Syracuse and Richmond.

Learn to shoot straight ---- Florida is shooting just 28 percent from 3-point range. If you take out Dan Werner's hot hand (11-for-22) it goes down to 24 percent for everyone else. Kenny Boynton has really struggled, making just 8-of-46 (.174) from beyond the arc. Florida does not have to be a great long range shooting team, but they have to be better than this.

Rebounding consistency ---- The Gators are plus-30 on the year as terms of rebound differential but that's deceptive. The Gators are actually plus-49 against the five weaker opponents and minus-19 against FSU and Michigan State. The Gators made up for a lot of it against the Spartans by being plus-12 in turnover differential that night in Atlantic City but you don't want to have to count on it.

Protect the ball ---- The Gators are averaging about 15 turnovers a game, which is not a bad number. But Florida had a dreadful 20 giveaways against FAMU despite facing little ball pressure. they have to do a better job than that. Also, the Gators have the same number of assists (101) as turnovers and that's not a good thing either.

Keep building depth ---- One of the best things about the FAMU game was that Walker and Boynton combined to play just 50 minutes instead of the 65 or so they had been averaging. Ideally they would be able to have that number more like 60 (30 each) when conference play gets underway. For that to happen, Shipman must find better consistency to go along with his improved play. It would also help if Nimrod Tishman can get to the point where he could give the Gators 3-5 minutes a half.

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