Entering Thursday’s games, the Hoos were ranked ahead of Florida on KenPom’s rankings. Following the games, the Gators leapfrogged the Hoos, jumping to eighth with Virginia in ninth. The Hoos, as we know, struggled with a solid UNC-W team, while the Gators ran away from the ETSU Buccaneers in the second half. Regardless of their first round performances, these are two fairly evenly matched teams. They are so evenly matched, in fact, that both teams are playing without their best interior player due to medical reasons.
Wahoo fans surely remember the last time these two teams faced off. The Hoos played that game with just seven scholarship players, one of whom (Joe Harris) was playing with a broken left hand. Though the final score was ugly (71-46), the Hoos held a lead midway through the first half and trailed by just six early in the second half. They ran out of gas, and just couldn’t make enough shots to stay in it.
That game was a 7/10 first round game (the Hoos were the 10 seed). This year, the matchup is a 4/5 game in the second round. Both teams have spent most of the season in the top 10 on KenPom’s ratings, and both teams have spent the majority of the season in the Top 25 polls (Virginia was in the polls all season). Like Virginia, Florida is a defense-first teams that still possesses plenty of offensive firepower.
The Gators are led in scoring by sophomore wing KeVaughn Allen (13.7 ppg). Allen is at his best in transition, but he actually takes more than half his shots from behind the three-point line. He shoots about 39% from out there, but he’s too good and too athletic to settle for jumpers so often. He is also a very good FT shooter and a good defender. He'll likely be faced up against Darius Thompson, who has a size and strength advantage, and is quick enough to stay with Allen. Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome will also spend some time on Allen, but they'll both struggle. Allen is too strong for Guy and too quick for Jerome.
The Gators have a two-headed PG, Kasey Hill and Chris Chiozza. Hill, a senior, is the starter and is more of a scorer. Chiozza is more of a pure PG, and will sometimes play alongside Hill, with Hill moving to the wing. That gives the Gators a lot of quickness and really helps get their full court press going. The duo averages three steals per game. While neither are good shooters, both get a lot of their points in transition.
Up front, the Gators really miss John Egbunu. He was their top rebounder, top shot blocker, and top interior scorer. Without him, the only real interior presence is Kevarrious Hayes. Hayes is a very good finisher in transition, but has little offensive skill beyond that. He’s good on the glass, but he’s going to be giving up a lot of size and strength to Jack Salt. Hayes is a very good shot blocker and also has quick hands and likes to jump passing lanes.
The Gators have two other “bigs”, but both of them are perimeter players. Of the two, 6’8” Devin Robinson, from Richmond, is the better player. He’s a 39% three point shooter, a good shot blocker, very strong in transition and is probably their best rebounder with Egbunu out. His wing-mate is Justin Leon. On the offensive end, Leon’s game is similar to Robinson’s, except he’s a lefty. He’s not nearly as good a shot blocker as Robinson, but he may be a better overall defender. He’s also not as athletic as Robinson, which hurts him on the glass, but he’s a high energy guy who comes with a lot of loose balls.
That takes care of the starters. Depending on how the game is going, both the Gators and Hoos may go small. That moves Hayes to the bench, and brings one of Canyon Barry and Keith Stone onto the court. Barry is a transfer from College of Charleston. He’s a shooter, though he’s made just 34% from three for his career. Barry is also a decent defender and can finish in transition. Stone allows the Gators to go small while also going big. He’s 6’8” 240, but he’s still more of a perimeter player. Actually, that’s been the biggest knock on him during his career (he’s a senior). He plays lazy, and despite being just a 30% shooter from behind the arc, he takes almost half his shots from out there. Due to the fact that he often has a big size advantage on his man, he looks good on the boards, but he can be out-hustled. Barry doesn’t often get out-hustled, but he’s not the athlete that Stone is. Barry, though, is a smart player and an outstanding FT shooter (87%), so he’s often on the floor late in close games.
The Gators are an up tempo team, though not quite as fast as the Hoos’ previous opponent, UNC-W. They are much more comfortable in a half-court game. They have a pair of guards who can break down the defense, though neither of them are great at finishing inside against bigger defenders. Jack Salt’s size will be helpful there. If the Gators keep Kevarrius in the game, Salt will play inside. But don’t be surprised if the Gators go small, which almost definitely takes Salt out. The Hoos may end up going five guards again, with Devon Hall and Marial Shayok being asked to guard the bigger Gator wings. Hall likely plays Devin Robinson, because Hall is stronger and Robinson spends more time inside. Leon is almost exclusively a perimeter player on offense and Shayok’s length will help keep Leon from getting good looks.
The upside to giving up size on the defensive end is that the Hoos would likely have a quickness advantage on offense. Both Hall and Shayok are capable of taking their man to the rack. And if Hayes isn’t on the floor, the Gators don’t really have any rim protection. We saw Marial Shayok repeatedly win one-on-one battles off the dribble, leading to his career high 23 points. Other than KeVaughn Allen, Shayok has a big quickness advantage against all the Gator wings. If Allen is guarding Shayok, that gives Kyle Guy and Darius Thompson some good matchups.
London Perrantes is also going to have a size advantage in this one. As he did on Thursday, London is going to be able to rise up over his man for jump shots. Both Hill and Chiozza are best in transition and can struggle in half-court defense. London had 24 points last game, and the Hoos will need a similarly strong performance this time out.
Kenpom makes this game a 50/50 shot. The lines are generally showing Florida by one point. This is about as even a matchup as you can imagine. Just like Thursday’s game, tempo is going to be a big part of this game. The Hoos want to slow the game down while the Gators want to speed it up. The Hoos were sped up by the Seahawks, but managed to come out on top anyway. The Gators, with significantly more size and talent than the Seahawks, will likely come out on top if the game gets sped up. However, the Hoos are a better outside shooting team and they have a more disciplined half-court defense. If the Hoos keep the game into a half-court affair, with a 60ish possession count, they’ll probably come out on top.