Upon finding out who their opponent would be in the Sweet 16 of this years NCAA Tournament, I'm pretty sure that the same three things came to mind from every player, coach, fan, booster, and anyone else who is rooting for the Gators in the Tournament.
2. Slowing down BYU's Jimmer Fredette.
3. Payback for last years NCAA Tournament loss to BYU.
This is a BYU team that knows how to win, as they have already won 32 games this year. This is a BYU team that knows how to score points, as they score over 81 points per game which is good for 8th in the country. Most importantly though, this is a BYU team that knows how to beat Florida.
After the jump, I'll offer up my thoughts on the three issues as well as attempt to preview the game against BYU and give my prediction on the outcome.First things first though and that is an update on Kenny Boynton's aforementioned sprained ankle. We all know by now that Boynton missed practice today but still expects to play. That is huge news in that Boynton will be charged with the near impossible task of slowing down BYU's Jimmer Fredette. I say slowing down instead of stopping, because let's be honest for a moment. There is no stopping the Jimmer. Kenny Boynton needs to have his ankle near 100% otherwise Fredette could go off on the Gators yet again. In last years double overtime win over the Gators, Fredette shot 13 of 26 from the field while on his way to 37 points. That year was slightly different as the Gators are a much better team overall this year, but they can't afford to give up another game like that. I don't care that their starting center was kicked off the team for having sex or that this year the Gators are the higher seed. BYU goes as Jimmer Fredette goes. Slow him down and you beat BYU. It is that simple.
The Cougars got to this point by beating Wofford 74-66 and thrashing Gonzaga 89-67. In those two games Fredette manged to connect on 9 of 21 three point attempts, dish out 13 assists, pull down 6 rebounds, and average 33 points.
Other than Jimmer Fredette, BYU's main contributors are guard Jackson Emery and forward Noah Hartsock. Jackson Emery is averaging around 12 points, 4 rebounds and 3.5 assists thus far in the tournament and has been BYU's #2 scoring threat throughout the entire season. Emery is also very good on the defensive end as he averages almost 3 steals a game. Hartsock however, has taken over the tough task of replacing starting center Brandon Davies (off-team), especially when it comes to rebounding. Thus far in the tournament, Hartsock has been averaging around 12 points per game and 4 rebounds per game which is down from his season average of around 6 per game.
The funny thing is that the Gators bring Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus, Vernon Macklin and Patric Young to the party. There is just no way that BYU can match up with that group of Gators. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that there aren't many front courts in college basketball that can match up to that group. And that is exactly what the Gators need to do to beat BYU. Get the ball down low, and let the big boys do their work. But I have a feeling it will not be that simple. The reason for that is Erving Walker.
Erving Walker is nearly a guarantee every game to do a couple of things. Take a really bad shot at a very inopportune time and make a fantastic shot at an even more inopportune time. How many time this year can you remember Walker taking a three point shot nearly 10 beyond the three point line and missing horribly instead of dumping it down low to Parsons, Tyus, Macklin or Young?
But for every one of those, there is one of these and it almost always seems to even out. He has the mindset of a quarterback in that for every bad interception he throws, he just goes back in there and then promptly converts an equally tough throw for a touchdown.
With all of that being said, I still think that Florida wins and I don't really think the game will be all that close. I think the Gators will win by 15 points or so. Las Vegas has the Gators favored anywhere from 2.5 points to 3 points depending on which casino and/or sportsbook you prefer, which means aside from the UCONN/San Diego State game, Las Vegas is under the impression that the Florida/BYU game will be closest match-up in the Sweet 16.
So even though throughout the season BYU as a team has averaged more points per game, more rebounds per game, more assists per game, more blocks and steals per game and shoot better than Florida at the free throw line and from beyond the arc...I'm taking the Gators.
I know that Billy and company have not forgotten about last year. Revenge games mean something. Even if they occur more than a year later.
Gators 79 - BYU 63