Many college basketball fans likely projected a showdown between Florida schools in the latter rounds of the 2013 NCAA tournament, but a Sweet 16 showdown between No. 3 Florida and No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast is not what those who filled out a bracket were envisioning.
Both the Gators and No. 2 Miami were impressive during he regular season, but the Hurricanes were bounced from the competition following a loss to No. 3 Marquette last night.
But Andy Enfield’s Eagles have recorded two shocking wins to ensure that the Sunshine State still has multiple representatives in March Madness. However, that will soon change.
Here is what Florida must do to avoid being the third favorite to fall to FGCU.
Shut Down Brett Comer
Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson have been fantastic in this tournament and have paced the Eagles’ scoring effort. But sophomore point guard Brett Comer is what makes this team tick.
Enfield coaches a truly entertaining style of basketball, and Comer’s creativity and courage allows it to work. He has rare vision, and when he sees the smallest opportunity to make a spectacular pass, he never hesitates to take it.
This is why he has 24 assists in FGCU’s two tournament games, and it is why Billy Donovan’s primary focus in this game must be limiting his impact. Fortunately for Donovan, he has one of the best defensive guards in college basketball on his roster.
Scottie Wilbekin will be given the task of shutting down Comer. If he fails, the Eagles’ high-flying lobs will once again fill up the highlight reel, and the Gators will have an extremely difficult time winning this game.
Slow Down the Pace
If this turns into and up-and-down contest where both teams are constantly getting out on the fast break, FGCU has a chance. If Florida slows down the pace and makes the Eagles defend and execute their offense in the half court, the Gators will roll.
The Gators play fantastic defense and rank third in KenPom.com’s defensive efficiency ratings. If the team’s defenders have time to get set, they are far too disciplined to let the Eagles consistently get to the rim.
But if Florida gets caught up in FGCU’s fast-paced style and takes quick shots on offense, it will have to keep up with the Eagles’ explosive athletes in transition, and this will make the Gators vulnerable.
Florida must control the pace of this game, otherwise FGCU will be able to execute their game plan and take advantage of their athleticism.
Spread Out the Scoring Effort
The Eagles play an aggressive style of defense, and when they go up against a team with a predictable offense, they relentlessly attack.
Both Georgetown and San Diego State center their offense around one star player. FGCU was able to keep Hoyas forward Otto Porter Jr. to just 13 points on 5-of-17 shooting, and although Aztecs guard Jamaal Franklin had a better scoring night, he committed five turnovers.
If Florida can spread points among its players while keeping its spacing and moving the ball, Florida Gulf Coast’s defense will get stretched out. There will be opportunities for the Gators to take advantage of the Eagles’ gambling on defense, and they must take advantage of these.
The best way to do this will be to keep them guessing by spreading out the scoring effort among several different players.
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