Minnesota Gophers and Florida Gators in NCAA Tournament Second Round - OPEN THREAD

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Gophers advanced to the 2nd round by beating the Pac-12 champion, they'll need to beat the SEC champ to advance to the second weekend.

Game Time: 5:10 pm
TV: TNT (DirecTV 245)
Radio: AM1500 and the Gopher Radio Network

Pos Minnesota Pnt/Gm Pnt/Gm Florida
PG Andre Hollins 14.3
Scottie Wibekin
G Joe Coleman 8.9
Kenny Boynton
F Austin Hollins 10.8
12.2 Mike Rosario
F Rodney Williams 10.1
Erik Murphy
C Trevor Mbakwe 9.9 10.5
Patric Young
Bench Maverick Ahanmisi 3.4 5.9
Michael Frazier II
Julian Welch 3.1 6.0
Casey Prather
Elliott Eliason 2.3
Will Yeguete

A couple of teams with very good interior players and balanced scoring throughout the starting lineup. Both of these teams grade out pretty good with KenPom efficiency stats, with Florida ranking #1in the KenPom rankings and Minnesota in the top 20.

In lieu of further previewing, I asked the boys as Alligator Army a few questions about tonights game.

1 - So the Gators are the KenPom #1 team in the country, is that an appropriate ranking for your squad? What, of the key factors, are the real strengths of the Gators?

Florida's KenPom ranking is thanks to its excellence on both offense and defense. The offensive excellence is based on execution, and the ability to make good shots: Florida runs ball screens at every point in the shot clock, probing for opportunities to cut to the basket for a short jumper or lay-up and/or chances to get one of the many good shooters on the roster a clean three. And when it's Erik Murphy stroking those threes and Scottie Wilbekin taking the floaters, they tend to go in pretty often.

On defense, Florida has figured out how to suffocate opponents with man-to-man play in the half court that usually keeps guards far away from the tin and stops forwards from getting anything easy underneath. Patric Young is a very effective individual defender in the post, and Wilbekin and Kenny Boynton are both superb individual perimeter defenders, while the entire team's active hands help force tie-ups and great post positioning produces a charge or two per game.

2 - Much has been made of the fact that Florida has yet to win a close game. Does this concern you? At some point you are bound to be in a close game in the NCAA Tournament, is this is a real problem for the Gators that may be what ends their season?
Yeah, Florida not being able to win a close game yet concerns me, but I've been writing about this for three solid months now, since Florida lost that first close game to Arizona, and I've come to this conclusion: The variety of ways Florida has found to fall in those games (with a complete meltdown in Arizona, with missed free throws at Missouri, with no depth while two rotation players were out at Tennessee, with a bizarrely cold stretch at Kentucky, with a nine-point swing on iffy calls and a bunch of missed free throws against Mississippi) has to be nearly exhausted by now.

I think Florida's been more unlucky than fatally flawed in these close games, and I think Florida winning 27 times by blowout margins is slightly more telling than losing five times by small ones, but, yes, Florida's probably going to be in a game that comes down to the final five minutes, and I'm one of the very, very few Florida fans who still trusts this team in a situation like that.

3 - Tubby vs. Billy...These guys used to meet on a regular basis and this coaching match-up will get a lot of play leading up to the game. I assume you've witnessed this coaching match-up before, what are your thoughts? Is there an obvious advantage/disadvantage on the sidelines?

I think Billy Donovan's a better coach than Tubby Smith, even though Smith has a 14-10 advantage on him, so that colors some of my estimation, perhaps even more than my homerism does. Donovan's produced five or six great teams (it depends on your definition) at Florida; Tubby had two or three at Kentucky, and hasn't put one together at Minnesota, to my mind, though this team appears to be his best.

I think Donovan's offense running at full whir (these Gators are about as good as the ones that went 7-0 against Tubby in his final three years at Kentucky) and this Florida defense stifling opposing offenses on a regular basis is a bad thing for any team to see, and I think Florida has Young, which will help significantly against Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams. But I don't know that I think Donovan's going to outcoach Smith, or vice versa; much of the coaching for this season is already done, and teams mostly are who they are.

4 - Finally, is there anything about the Gophers that concerns you? Did you see the win over UCLA and get nervous about anything the Gophers can do?

I'm worried about the potential for Mbakwe deciding he can dominate Young like he did Cody Zeller (which I doubt will happen, but...) and coming out on fire, and I'm worried about the possibility of foul trouble leaving Florida without Young up front, which would be a nightmare against that frontcourt. I didn't see much of the Minnesota-UCLA game, but it went basically like I thought it would, with the Gophers dominating a drained UCLA team with no standout frontcourt player.

I don't think they're going to be able to do that against Florida.

In my opinion the Gophers need to do two things. 1-Andre Hollins to dominate, not getting constrained by the Gator defense. 2-Trevor Mbakwe needs to be a force and probably get the Gator bigs into foul trouble. Anything we get from Rodney Williams will be a bonus, but his matchup defensively might be really important too.

Should be a great game (hopefully). Keep it close and play with some passion.

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