FanPost

Erik Murphy continues to drive Gators towards success

As the old saying goes: A chain (or in this case, a team) is only as strong as its weakest link.

One of my favorite characteristics of this year's version of the Florida Gators basketball team is that there really isn't a weak link. There are always five players on the floor who can contribute in some way. Whether Patric Young is backing an opponent off the court to set up a soft baby hook shot, or Kenny Boynton is draining threes, or Scottie Wilbekin is dribbling his way past a full court press, every player has his niche that keeps the Gator train chugging along.

Then there's Billy Donovan's ace in the hole: Erik Murphy.

Simply put, he can do everything (aside from dribble, and who needs him to do that when Boynton and Wilbekin are among the best in the country at ball handling?).

For starters, Murphy is by far the Gators' most accurate outside shooter. He's nailed 36 of 76 threes for an incredible 47.4 percent clip. Florida's next best shooter is Michael Frazier, at 41.2 percent, and the next best after Frazier is Wilbekin, who checks in at 40.2 percent.

By just reading that statistic, you would think Murphy is a small shooting guard who gets the majority of the shots, and that's it. He's actually Florida's Mr. Everything.

In addition to being the Gators' best outside threat, Murphy is a 6'10" forward who has pulled down 80 rebounds this year (only Young and Will Yeguete have more), he shoots about .64% from inside the three point line, and teams know not to foul him: he shoots a shade underneath 82 percent from the foul line (18-22 on the year)

The stats on paper look impressive, but there's always an answer for everything on paper. It's easy to say, "Guard him tight", but remember, Florida has four other players who can score at will, too. The Gators are an excellent ball moving team. They are not afraid to swing it around the perimeter four or five times per possession to find an open man. This forces defenses to constantly rotate, and will tire them out, which is great for numerous obvious reasons, and, eventually, somebody is going to be left wide open for a three because the defense can't get to him in time. Even worse, the defense is going to be out of position to get the rebound, meaning somebody can stroll in from the outside, time his jump right, and get the board. More often than not, that somebody is Erik Murphy.

The bottom line is that there's no surefire way to stop Murphy. Overplay him outside, and he will sneak inside, where he shoots 64 percent and has the height to get his own miss, which he has done quite often. Leave him out there, and he will make almost half of his threes. Foul him anywhere along the way and make him "earn" his points from the foul line, and he will do that too.

There's nobody on the Gators, and few in college basketball, who can check off all four of those. Patric Young is a big inside force, can score easily and gets lots of rebounds, but he can't shoot free throws or threes like Murphy. Kenny Boynton, Scottie Wilbekin and Mike Rosario can make free throws and threes, and they can score inside, but none can rebound like Murphy can.

On a team in which everybody contributes something to victory, Murphy contributes lots of different things, yet he isn't flashy enough to garner national attention or even special coverage. In other words, in the eyes of other teams, Murphy is good, but not great, which, paradoxically is better.

Teams don't want to waste time preparing for all the different ways Murphy can hurt them? OK, fine with me -- and Billy Donovan. Hope to see you in late March.

Please be kind and use good grammar.

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