The Seminoles have accomplished one of their major goals in the out-of-conference season: they've avoided a bad loss. FSU's three losses are to teams ranked (in the Pomeroys) 8th, 16th and 37th, and their projected RPIs are in line with those rankings. But FSU hasn't accomplished the second major goal which is to get a signature win to hold up in front of the Selection Committee. UCF ranks 122nd and UMass is 134th. So with a non-conference slate that finishes with Princeton and Auburn, this is the last opportunity to get that signature win.
The Florida Gators are a legit top-10 team (currently 9th at ken pom). And the reason is that they have the best offense in the nation. They attempt more threes than 96% of college basketball teams, and they knock down over 40% of those. Their turnover rate is 13th (of 345 teams) and they're 20th nationally at grabbing offensive rebounds. In football, a team like this wins because of the hidden yardage. In basketball, it's the hidden possessions. The gators turn the ball over 4.5% less than the average NCAA team, and they grab 7% more of their own misses. Combine those and the Gators have about six more opportunities per game in which to score. And they have plenty of players who can score.
The Gators have seven consensus top-100 players on their roster. Three of those are top-20, and two are top-10. (For reference, FSU has 5 consensus top-100 players, 2 of which have yet to play this season. FSU has one top-20 and zero top-10. From a talent perspective, FSU is overmatched) Junior Kenny Boynton leads the team at 18.7 a game and is doing so by hitting 47% of his 3s and 55% of his 2s. Mike Rosario, a transfer from Rutgers, is also making more than 40% of his 3s (42%). Erving Walker makes 38% and Erik Murphy, who missed a few games with a knee injury, makes 50%. And it was Murphy's return to the lineup that makes this team so dangerous. Patric Young is the only other big man to make an impact for UF this season, but Murphy's return gives them a 6'10 player who can step out and hit the three.
The Gators offense revolves around breaking the defense down off the dribble and then kicking it out for threes. Patric Young gets enough touches inside to keep teams honest. If UF makes over 40% of those threes, then I doubt FSU has the offense to keep up. If not, this could be a game.
The Gators defense is 5th in the SEC and 60th nationally. They're not a bad defense, nor are they a defense that has a glaring weakness. They're just alright. They're 144th at forcing turnovers, 142nd defending the 2-pt shot, and 149th at blocking shots. Even if FSU goes with a three guard lineup, the Noles will still have a size advantage at nearly every position. Florida's strategy will be to use full-court pressure to force turnovers, and in half court sets collapse the defense and make FSU hit outside shots. To counter this FSU needs to get into transition and attack early in the shot clock.
The big story for the Noles are the returns of Ian Miller and Antwan Space. It's unlikely that either play a major role tonight, though if one does it will probably be Miller. But coach Hamilton has already stated publicly that @UF isn't a good spot for a player's first game of the season, so it will be interesting to see how that story plays out.
Vegas has UF as a 9-point favorite, and Pomeroy has UF -8. The game tips at 7pm from the O-Dome and will be broadcast on ESPNU.