Thursday, December 06, 2012

Florida Wipes The Floor With Florida State

#6 Florida 72, Florida State 47
This game was never competitive.The Gators led by 20 in the first half, and actually led 62-25 at one point before allowing the Seminoles to go on a run late against their backups. What stood out more than anything from this game was the Florida defense. The Gators came into this game third in the nation with only 0.78 PPP this season, but very few casual observers realized how good they are on that end of the floor. Here? The Gators had more steals than allowed baskets until the final minutes. In the end they finished with 14 steals and 16 allowed baskets. Florida State scored only 0.74 PPP.

If there was one Florida player whose defense stood out here, and has stood out all season, it's Scottie Wilbekin. His playing time has vastly expanded this season, and he's been a really good complementary player (4.3 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals in only 26.8 minutes per game). He had five steals here.

It was kind of ridiculous that Florida was only ranked 6th this week - it's due to inertia, with idiot voters not wanting to move Team A ahead of Team B until Team B loses. But Florida, even before this win, was clearly one of the five best teams in the nation. They will be battle-hardened heading into SEC play as well. They've already beaten Wisconsin, Marquette and Florida State, and have more tough tests ahead. Their next game will be on December 15th on the road at Arizona. I'm really excited for that one.

Florida State has lost three straight and now falls to 4-4 overall with two bad losses (South Alabama and Mercer) and only two decent wins (St. Joseph's and BYU). They're not playing at all like an NCAA Tournament team right now. They will get a chance to earn their bid in conference play, but they're going to have to play better. They also can't afford any more bad non-conference losses.

Memphis 84, Ohio 58
Memphis had struggled to start this season, and came into this game only 4-2 overall without any quality wins. But Ohio is rated as one of the 50 best teams in the nation by both Sagarin and Pomeroy, and Memphis just destroyed them. In Ohio's defense, they did just shoot very poorly (6-for-25 behind the arc and a 42.9 eFG%). But the Memphis offense was very sharp here. They hit 57.8% of their two-pointers and assisted on 18 of 32 made baskets.

This has not been a trend for Memphis this season, by the way. Their assists and 2P% are actually down this year relative to last year, although part of that is due to not having Will Barton, of course. But Joe Jackson is growing into the point guard role and Shaq Goodwin (20 points and 9 rebounds here) is turning into one of the better freshmen in the nation. I haven't been too impressed with Josh Pastner's in-game coaching up to this point, and I don't want to overreact to a single efficient performance, but this was a great performance by them.

Memphis will play Austin Peay on Saturday and then will have a week to get ready for a huge home game against Louisville. Don't be surprised if they make a game of that one. It is last chance for a real big scalp on their resume this season. Ohio has now lost two straight and will try to bounce back on Saturday against Oakland. Their odds of an at-large bid this season were always going to be pretty low, but they want to be playing good ball before they enter MAC play because the conference is improved this season and they will get pushed.

Virginia 46, Tennessee 38
With Tennessee's offensive woes lately, they probably weren't looking forward to playing Virginia. Their 0.63 PPP actually were worse than the 0.66 PPP they scored in that ugly 37-36 loss they had to Georgetown. The Volunteers are now scoring only 0.95 PPP. They hope to have Jeronne Maymon back before too long, but it's not like he's an explosive scorer. I think the Vols are going to struggle to score all season long.

Virginia's defense struggled pretty badly (by Tony Bennett standards) to start the season, and that was a big reason why they had those bad losses to George Mason and Delaware. But Bennett has clearly been focusing on defense and they're playing much better. They're not yet where they were last year, when Pomeroy rated them the 6th best defense in the nation, but they're getting there. With this win and a win over Wisconsin, their NCAA Tournament chances are looking much better. If they can avoid any more bad non-conference losses and get to 10-8 in ACC play then they should be in good shape. Their next game will on Saturday against Mississippi Valley State.

Tennessee falls to 4-3 this season, with zero big wins. Offense is a problem, of course, but so is rebounding. Getting Maymon back will help with the rebounding, at least, but I thought Jarnell Stokes would be further along by now. He showed up on the Tennessee campus with a flourish, but hasn't really progressed as a player since then. The Vols now have eight days to prepare for an important home game against Wichita State next Thursday. After that, Memphis and Xavier will be their only quality opponents prior to SEC play.

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