Florida Basketball: Gators Right Where They Expected To Be

(Edited, promoted, updated time to push to front, but note that this was written prior to Florida's win over Mississippi Valley State, and thus reflects statistics from then. — Andy)

Basketball barely feels like it has started and yet the Gators have already played a third of their regular season schedule. So far, Florida's about right where they were expected to be, beating every non-top five opponent it has faced, and living up to the hype as the deadliest deep shooting team in the nation. The Gators even answered their biggest question, albeit in a loss, by proving that they can out-rebound good teams even while playing a three-guard, one-combo-forward, one-true-big starting five. A lot of that success has been due to the one true big (I like that as a potential nickname for Patric Young); a lot of it is due to Bradley Beal's Dwyane Wade-ishness. I'll get to both of those things in a minute.

First, after the jump, a full team breakdown.

Florida can shoot well. That is a pretty obvious and basic statement. The Gators are currently first in the nation in three pointers made, 30th in three-point percentage, 12th in effective shooting percentage, third in points-per-game, and third in points per possession. Additionally, the Gators are first in the SEC in every single one of the previously listed categories. Only free-throw percentage drags the Gators' scoring metrics down: The Gators are 302nd in the country in free-throw percentage, dragging their true-shooting percentage down to 30th in the country ... which is still first in the SEC. (If you're wondering what the hell I mean by true shooting percentage or effective shooting percentage, or any stat in the rest of this post look here. So, yeah: Florida can shoot well.

Continuing on offense, Florida is near the top of the heap in assists. Florida ranks 10th nationally in both assists per game and assists per turnover (first in the SEC in both). Additionally, the Gators are first in the SEC in assist percentage. Most of this can be credited to Erving Walker's emergence as a true floor general; he's posting career highs in assists/game, assist percentage, and assists to turnovers.

Florida can also rebound well. The Gators are 21st in the nation in total rebound percentage, and 18th in offensive rebound percentage (first in the SEC in both categories). Their defensive rebound percentage is a more pedestrian 85th (third in the SEC), but not anything that could be considered a glaring negative.

Florida's defensive metrics, though, aren't nearly as stout. Part of that is due to the style/pace that Florida plays. Florida forces teams to play faster, so opponents score points. Florida ranks 178th in points allowed per game, but they still average a +20 point discrepancy between points scored and points allowed. All of Florida's shot-percent and assist metrics tell the same story. Florida may not be a top defense, but they frustrate teams and force teams to play considerably worse than the Gators are playing. Here's a quick chart to illustrate the difference

UF FG%: 47.7
Opp FG%: 42.1

UF 3 pt%: 39.2
Opp 3 pt%: 31.4

UF True Shooting: 57.8
Opp True Shooting: 50.9

UF Effective FG %: 56.6
Opp Effective FG%: 46.8

UF Assist%: 58.6
Opp Assist%: 32.1

UF Assist/game: 17.8
Opp Assist/game: 12.4

UF Assist/turnover: 1.52
Opp Assist/turnover: 0.8

UF also ranks 34th nationally and first in the SEC in steals/game. Blocks are the only major defensive category that the Gators are not ranked in the top half of the SEC in; they rank 10th in the conference in both block percentage and blocks/game.

Individually, UF's mantra could be "progress." UF has nine players with significant minutes/statistics: The starting five, plus Casey Prather, Will Yeguete, Mike Rosario, and Scottie Wilbekin. Cody Larson has seen the court in all but one game, but it's hard to trust any analysis based on as limited an amount of data as he has provided. Walter Pitchford is the only other player to see the court so far this year.

Erving Walker's turnaround has been professional career-saving. I'm not saying he's going to the NBA, but he's going to play Euroball for a while if he wants to based on this season. Despite a three-minute reduction in average playing time, Walker has created nearly two additional assists/game. He's doing that while scoring at a similar rate per game as he did last year, averaging 14.1 points per outing on 57.8% true-shooting. While his turnover rates are only marginally better, the large positive change in assists has boosted his assist/turnover ratio from 1.3 to 2.3. His game is similar to what everyone knows his game to be, and his limitations remain, but Walker is doing everything at a much more efficient level this year. With the loss of Chandler Parsons, UF had to find a consistent point guard who could carry the floor for an entire game; Walker stepped into the role and it made him better than ever.

Kenny Boynton's turnaround is less pronounced in some areas, and OMG AMAZING in others. Boynton, a career 33 percent three-point shooter with a volume shooting problem entering the season, is currently shooting an astounding 46% from three-point range. He's on pace to score 117 three pointers in the regular season, besting his career high by 37 threes. He's a top five shooter in the SEC by almost every metric. Additionally, he's raised his Player Efficiency Rating (PER) from that of an average (literally) player to a league leader. Boynton's frustrating ball-handling tendencies have been fixed, mostly, too: He's posting career bests in turnover percentage and assists/game. If you consider his shoot-first mentality a flaw, then that is still present, but as long as he's leading the SEC in effective FG percentage, then he should have free rein over all shooting decisions. Boynton's defense hasn't been any different than last year, which is to say it's good and significantly underrated.

Bradley Beal is one of the Gators' only two significant newcomers this season. Beal has been disappointing in some respects, but his performance is probably more properly rated as unbelievable, considering he's only a freshman and most of his flaws are extremely fixable. Florida has never had a player with Beal's talent at guard. He's Dwyane Wade Ultra Lite. Beal is currently the Gators' second-best scorer and rebounder, and he plays all of his minutes at wing. Donovan should make a film featuring the way Beal cuts into the lane for both scoring drives and rebound opportunities and make every other player learn how to do that. Beal's outside shot is average right now, which is not the "second coming of Ray Allen" that he was promised to be. His shot is not flawed, though; it's just not going in right now. His ball-handling, however, is flawed, as he's currently the Gators' worst option at point guard, posting the most turnovers per game and the worst assist/turnover ratio of all of the combo guards. Still, he's Florida's second-best player in most categories, which adds up to Florida's second best player overall, and that's mostly because Boynton is on an untouchable level right now.

Erik Murphy is what Dan Werner should have been. He's Florida's best catch-and-release shooter, a good help defender, and a great screen setter. Will Yeguete is probably a better overall player, but with the roles Murphy fills it's easy to see why Donovan favors him at the starting four spot. Murphy's only flaw so far has been his utter lack of rebounds. Eventually, Florida is going to run into Kentucky, a team the Gators cannot "out-athlete" with Beal and Young. In games like that, Murphy will need to be on the bench, because his rebounding skills are too inferior to play at forward.

Patric Young took a big leap to the next level this year, but the Gators haven't exactly been on the same page. He's averaging 10.4 points/game on 60% shooting, up from 3.4 last year; 7.5 rebounds/game, up from 3.8 last year; 1.6 assists/game, up from 0.3; and 1.4 blocks/game up from 0.8 last year. Unfortunately, his offensive numbers have been boom and bust. Florida has not found a consistent way to feature him. He's been the best post-player in every game so far this year. Against Ohio State, he crushed Jared Sullinger, a projected high lottery draft pick. Other than not being featured, which isn't his fault, Young hasn't done anything worth nitpicking. He's lived up to every bit of his five-star rank this year.

Yeguete is Florida's best post option after Young. He's shown that he's supremely athletic, and he's a phenomenal on-ball defender and rebounder. Unfortunately, when Yeguete plays alongside Young, Florida lacks the spacing that Donovan has built the team around, because neither Yeguete nor Young are any threat from deep. Still, when the Gators need rebounds or defense, or more post presence, Yeguete gets on the floor and fills that role.

Mike Rosario has been a great first option bench player for Florida's three-guard offense. Unfortunately, he's been sporadic at best defensively. He's currently shooting over 40 percent from beyond the arc, and, like Boynton, is posting a true-shooting percentage over .600. He also forgets that the guy in front of him has the ball sometimes, fails to close out on shooters sometimes, and doesn't rotate against motion offenses sometimes. Despite his defensive mental mistakes, he's as deadly as advertised on offense, making him a potentially devastating bench scorer.

Scottie Wilbekin has been the player most hurt by the additional guards. The addition of Beal and Rosario to the lineup have decreased his time on the court by 3.4 minutes per game. His efficiency has taken a dive with the decreased minutes, too: He's currently shooting lower percentages across the board. Fortunately, his defense appears to have gotten better, as he's been a great press defender and point defender when Walker needs rest. He's kind of the anti-Rosario: His defense is lockdown stuff, but he doesn't have the talent to remain on the court with the rest of Florida's players.

Casey Prather is one of Florida's most athletic players. That says a lot, considering the eight previous players profiled. He also doesn't do much with all of that speed and leaping ability. On any given night, Prather is guaranteed to make two or three slashes to the basket for a putback opportunity. He's also virtually guaranteed to not do anything with those opportunities, because his timing sucks. That's most of his problem: He's usually out of position, and although he is athletic enough to correct that, he doesn't do it at the right opportunity and instead blurs by the camera in a OHMYGOD moment that leaves Gator fans high and dry. The good news is that Prather is only a sophomore and he's got a lot of potential. In two more years, the first 10 games of 2011-2012 probably won't mean much to his career.

Please be kind and use good grammar.

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