"The basis of optimism is sheer terror."
On this St. Patrick's Day* I feel that this above quote from famous Irish poet Oscar Wilde sums up my feelings towards the Gators' basketball team as they head into the second-round of the NCAA tournament against the Purdue Boilermakers.
I've been continually telling myself that the Gators are the most talented, most well-rounded and best equipped basketball team in this field. But why must I remind myself of this assumption over and over again?
The answer is that I'm extremely worried about what the future holds in this tournament. In my mind, this team should win. But it is of course common knowledge amongst sports fans that the best team does not always win come March Madness, as doses of lethargy or ineffectiveness can easily dismantle a team's hopes when it's a win-or-go-home situation.
Tomorrow we could see the Gators who conquered Ohio State by 26. Or we could be witness to the Gators team that was overwhelmed by the LSU Tigers.
The first half of last night's match up against Jackson State showed us how easily a team can go cold from the floor and the free throw line. The Tennessee Volunteers showed us how easy it is to beat this group of Gators when they are not playing well as a team.
But on that note, the second half of last night's affair showed us how nearly unstoppable this team could be. Can we expect them to be at this level for 40 minutes of every game, though? Remember, one bad half of basketball can kill you.
But this is March. Coach Donovan will have these guys ready to go, and these players will be focused and energetic, ready to take on any team from here on out. That is what I'll keep telling myself from here until the Gators' run through the tournament is over -- whether or not that brings a repeat National Title into the picture.
With that in mind, the Gators will face their second opponent in this run: The Purdue Boilermakers -- A team that, to tell you the truth, I know absolutely nothing about. I have no clue what their final record was and I have no clue who their best player is.
So, if you're anything like me, you may need a brief summary of the Boilermakers and how they got into the position they are. So here goes:
The 2006-2007 Season
Purdue came into this campaign under second-year head coach Matt Painter, who replaced the program's all-time winningest head coach, Gene Keady. Painter had a tough first season as the coach of the Boilermakers, as the team posted a 9-19 record in 2005-2006 -- so this season's success has been a big turnaround in West Lafayette.
Purdue holds a 22-11 record overall on the season, including their first-round tournament win over Arizona, and finished the Big-10 season at 9-7. With their win over the Wildcats, Purdue has an impressive run going up to this point, having won five of their last six games. Their lone loss in those six came against the #1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in the Big-10 conference tournament.
With their 21-11 record coming into the postseason, Purdue was said to be a team that was not really on the bubble, but one of the last teams in regardless. With that title and their late-season run they earned a nine seed in the field of 65.
Purdue has had it's troubles with teams ranked in the top-25 this season. In games against such squads, they have lost to Butler, Georgia Tech, Wisconsin and Ohio State (three times). On that note they did beat a ranked Indiana Hoosiers team. Against teams that are currently ranked, Purdue was 2-6 this season.
The Boilermakers' biggest threat is that of Senior forward Carl Landy (which I did not know of until now). On the season he is averaging 18.9 points and 7.9 rebounds each contest, very impressive numbers coming in just over 30 minutes per game.
Alongside Landry is Senior guard David Teague who comes in averaging 14.3 points and five rebounds per game. As you could see from the above, Purdue is the type of team that feeds off of senior leadership, as the rest of the team consists of two juniors, four sophomores, and four freshman.
Teague shoots 42% from beyond the arc for the season, and is joined by Sophomore guard Chris Lutz, who shoots 48%, as Boilermakers who can be dangerous from the three-point line.
Points Per Game
UF: 80.3 / Opp: 61.8
PU: 69.9 / Opp: 63.0
UF: .529 / Opp: .402
PU: .462 / Opp: .424
3 pt FG Percentage
UF: .406 / Opp: .286
PU: .360 / Opp: .330
UF: 123.3 (2nd)
PU: 111.3 (66th)
UF: 86.7 (12th)
PU: 87.4 (15th)
Purdue plays at a very similar pace to Florida, both coming in with average tempo numbers. One thing to take note of is the defensive efficiency that Purdue holds, coming in at 15th in the country, as this will be the key to the game. Will Florida come out guns blazing like they did in the second half of the Jackson State game? If they do, that tight Boilermakers defense will not make a difference. I'll say that as long as they avoid long stretches of low point production, the Gators should be just fine against this defense.
While they excel on defense, the Purdue offense has not exactly been lighting up this season, although they do rank in the top third of all teams in the country. With guys like Landry and Teague you can expect points to go up on the board. The Gators must avoid getting into foul trouble, especially a guy like Corey Brewer who is probably the best Florida defender. That being said, I have full faith in the Gators defense to avoid giving up a ton of points to a team that doesn't average 70 a game this season.
If the Gators can get this to a halfcourt style game at an average tempo, avoiding turnovers and allowing their big-men to become a presence underneath, this should be a victory for the Orange and Blue. But I'm just being optimistic on that one...
* You're probably wondering what I'm doing posting on this site on St. Patrick's Day. Well, if you inquire I've come down with some sort of flu-bug which has kept me at home on this fine evening -- Don't worry though, I've done my share by watching Gangs of New York and I've even listened to some Flogging Molly.