We have seen this movie before. The Post Oh Fours Gators playing well, then laying an egg against an inferior team, which precedes a collapse. Florida's loss at South Carolina might have been exactly that, as Florida couldn't make free throws or handle the ball, two things bad teams always do. It is easy to assume that one game is not a sign of bad things to come. But the Gators (17-7, 6-4 SEC) have been living on the edge, needing last second wins to defeat Alabama, NC State and South Carolina. Not to mention allowing Arkansas and Mississippi State to hang around too long.
Tonight, Xavier (16-7, 8-2 A10) might just push them off the edge and into the abyss of the NIT again. The Musketeers average nearly 80 points a game, led by guard Jordan Crawford. In his last three games, Crawford has scored 23, 25 and 24 points, averaging 19.7 points this season. But as the prime scorer, Crawford can get careless, as he had four turnovers in each of his last two games. Xavier has played big boys like Kansas State, Marquette and Wake Forest (all losses), and their 69 points allowed per game is probably lower thanks to beating up the weaklings at the bottom of the Atlantic 10 (which has 14 teams).
The biggest thing for Florida is to protect the ball. They are active enough rebounding, especially with Chandler Parsons asserting himself in the paint. But the performance at South Carolina was an embarrassment. It wasn't just Dan Werner shooting airballs or Erving Walker making bad passes. They were not focused. For a team that has to prove themselves every night, it was a terrible performance.
To be fair though, Walker, Parsons and Kenny Boynton are asked to be at their best non-stop, since Vernon Macklin is still lacking, Alex Tyus can drop in and out, and there is no bench. It is fair to be critical of Walker and Boynton, but the reliance on them is due to the lack of reliance on the other guys.
Victory tonight for Florida will pad the resume, but UF still needs solid wins in the league. Tonight can be a chance to save their form and get to the tournament.