Jury still out on Florida basketball through nine

By Adam Silverstein
December 17, 2010

By Malik Grady – OGGOA Correspondent

After nine games, the Florida Gators men’s basketball team is a hard-to-gauge 7-2 with losses to a top-five Ohio State team in Gainesville, FL, and an embarrassing loss to a possible NCAA Tournament team in Central Florida in Orlando, FL. Is this team closer to the top-10 ranked one that led Ohio State at the 12-minute mark of the second half or more akin to the one that only beat Morehead State by six and lost to UCF?

Complicating the issue is the curious combination of players struggling offensively and extended minutes for young players who may still improve dramatically in the coming months. It’s much easier to look at the often contradicting facts than to make any certain predictions for this team going forward.

Simply put, the Gators have not been particularly noteworthy on either offense or defense as of yet, except in a few curious instances. Checking their advanced statistics so far reveals a few things about how the team has played up until this point.

Read the rest of Malik’s commentary on Florida basketball…after the jump!

Both their offensive and defensive efficiency ratings (points per 100 possessions; scored and allowed) put them near the top nationally. Offensively, they score 114.2 and give up only 90.8. Florida is also a good offensive rebounding team and although they are near the bottom nationally at drawing fouls, they have also been remarkably good at not fouling their opponents.

The one aspect of UF’s offensive struggles that is obvious to most observers is their inability to be a threat from the three-point line. The Gators are shooting an abysmal 31.8 percent from beyond the arc, putting them in the bottom third of teams nationally. Their two-point field goal shooting is a sparkling 55.4 percent, however, meaning that unless their players start making threes, they may need to stop taking threes.

The good news/bad news facts continue on the individual front as well.

Senior forward Chandler Parsons and redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, who were each stellar during the summer at LeBron James’ skills camp, have both struggled with injuries at times this year. Luckily Macklin’s knee tendinitis seems to have become less of a factor as the season has gone on; however Parsons’ calf and hand injuries may have contributed significantly to his less explosive play, poor shooting from downtown and a lack of confidence in general.

Macklin is averaging double figures in only 20 minutes a game on 65 percent shooting but is only hitting one out of every three free throw attempts. Parsons is again nearly leading the team in rebounds while shooting 50 percent but is turning the ball over as much as he passes it and shooting only 27 percent from beyond the arc.

Quite literally the only player on the roster who is shooting the ball well from distance is junior point guard Erving Walker who’s 45.7 percent from downtown is even better than his freshman year when he was set-up by UF all-time single-season assist leader Nick Calathes. However, just like Parsons, his assist-to-turnover ratio has plummeted from last year’s nearly 2:1 to the 1:1 ratio that nearly the entire team shares at this point.

For senior F Alex Tyus, nearly having a 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio is a radical improvement from his first three seasons when he was frighteningly abysmal in that category. His 1.1 assists per game is double his output last year, and he’s accomplishing it in six fewer minutes. If other players can set him up on a more consistent basis going forward, he could fill a role as an efficient finisher and scorer on the inside.

“Efficient” is not a word used to describe sophomore guard Kenny Boynton. Not by a long shot. Although he’s been solid handling the ball as well as contributing his usual hard work on defense, Boynton has scored the same amount of points as Walker (109) but only because he has launched 34 more shots. His 24 percent shooting from beyond the arc is making fans long for the then-shocking 29 percent he averaged last year.

The most encouraging place where improvement still appears likely is on Florida’s bench. Sophomore F Erik Murphy has been effective; in addition to scoring both inside and off jumpers, he’s leading the team in blocks while only playing 16.0 minutes a game.

The player getting the most minutes off the bench, with 16.3 per game, has been freshman PG Scottie Wilbekin, who has simply been a revelation. At 6’2”, he not only brings a defensive presence, he’s also the only player on the team with an assist-to-turnover ratio to be proud of at 3.5:1.

Also effective in limited minutes has been 6’7” freshman F Will Yeguete, who already has a 15-rebound game under his belt and averages a tidy 4.5 boards in only 11 minutes a game.

The two most heralded members of the freshman class – C Patric Young and G Casey Prather – have gotten their fair share of minutes but started a bit slow. Young has brought great energy and defensive presence in his 15 minutes per game, but not all that much in the way of tangible statistics, while Prather has seen his minutes dwindle early on. Chances are both will make more of a mark in the final two-thirds of the season, perhaps beginning with No. 5 Kansas State, who the Gators face on Saturday.

Faced with the longest layoff between games that Florida will have the rest of the year, the team has been reflecting on the changes and adjustments demanded by head coach Billy Donovan while both practicing and studying hard. The Gators should be able to put their best foot forward with a plan to contain G Jacob Pullen and KSU, so how they perform in that match-up will be quite telling.

3 Comments

  1. cline2574 says:

    Good read.

    Prec.

  2. Gatorbuc15 says:

    Nice read Malik! Your observations of how the team has played thus far are pretty spot on. They need to play better but I must say that I was encouraged a little bit with how they played against Kent St. last Thursday. IMO that was the most fundamentally sound game they have played thus far. Though it wasn’t perfect I viewed it as a sign of improvement.
    Let’s hope they can continue to turn things around against K-St. tomorrow!

  3. Malik you are the great Gator optimist! Keep it up!

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