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Florida Gators Mailbag: What should the Gators do in last shot situations?

Florida has struggled to score on final possessions for quite some time. What should the Gators do in those situations?


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Should the ball be in someone else's hands for the last shot? Crazy, but I feel comfortable with MFII shooting it.(@MitchellMason96)

This question has reared its head time and again over the last four years, and it has done so for good reason: Florida, with Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton on the floor, has become painfully predictable and frustratingly poor at end-of-half situations.

And if we're talking about the last two years with statistics alone, we're not capturing the totality of Erv and Kenny failures in last shot situations. Florida missed four threes in the final minutes of regulation and overtime in its 2011 Elite Eight loss to Butler, three of them to win or tie, and also had to go to overtime to get wins over BYU in the Sweet Sixteen and at Vanderbilt thanks to missed threes with a chance to win. (The Vanderbilt win and Florida's win over Georgia both featured successes in the final seconds, though.)

Combine those notable failures and the statistics, and it's clear that Florida has underwhelmed in last shot situations. Combine it with Billy Donovan's strange struggles in close games — Donovan was 6-15 in games decided by five points or fewer in his first three years at Florida, when he was building a program, and is 61-60 in all other games, but that aspect of this stat virtually never gets mentioned — and it is clear that this is especially painful for Florida fans. It shouldn't have to be, though, because Florida's normal offense is about as good an option as it gets.

Over the last two years, Florida has gone 3-7 in close games; over the last two years, Florida has averaged more than 1.2 points per possession, something that only Indiana joins it in doing. Donovan has trusted Walker and Boynton (and Scottie Wilbekin, to an extent) to create and take shots at the ends of halves and games, but those situations have turned into horrific decisions to find "open" threes in isolation instead of running the Gators' offense and finding the right shot. While that devolution into stagnant isolation-based offense isn't unique to Florida in the slightest, it's probably more painful at Florida than anywhere else, because no other team has the offensive balance and versatility that the Gators do, and because Walker, Boynton, Wilbekin, Mike Rosario and many other players Florida has had are far better at shooting threes off the catch than off the dribble — you know, because threes off the dribble are really difficult.

I don't care who takes the last shot, honestly: I'd just like to see Florida running its offense instead of running a play to get the ball to a guard and allowing him the leeway to find a shot for himself. That's a boring answer, but it could lead to a Michael Frazier II three — there's no good reason not to have Frazier on the floor in an offense-only situation that isn't "We want Patric Young and Erik Murphy on the floor to preserve options inside," frankly, and if Florida needs a three, there's no reason to not have the guy making more than half of his threes on the floor — or a more open shot, or a lay-up. Isolation threes off the dribble wouldn't be acceptable for Michael Jordan in last shot situations: Why should they be acceptable for players who are nowhere near automatic on them?

Gators bball can't get a tough win on the road. How does this affect tourney hopes? (@_slotkin)

I don't know if it really does, actually. 2005-06 Florida won a title after winning just one truly "tough" game on the road, at Kentucky, and that Kentucky team didn't even make the Sweet Sixteen; 2006-07 Florida beat a decent Mississippi State team that ended up in the NIT and another Kentucky team that didn't make the Sweet Sixteen, but lost to Florida State and LSU on the road.

Big-time wins on the road are very hard to get, especially if you fail in the final minutes like Florida has at Arizona and Missouri this season, but the flip side of playing every game away from home in the NCAA Tournament is that none of those games are on the road, either. No crowd is going to be as loud as the one in the McKale Center or the one in Mizzou Arena, and no refs are going to be as crowd-influenced (I hope); thus, Florida's less likely to get rattled.

I think Florida's a really, really good team that has collapsed in two losses and been smoked by good shooting from the other team in two others, and unless Florida loses multiple games between now and Selection Sunday, I don't think things are going to change my mind much on that point. But really, really good teams aren't national title locks, or even Sweet Sixteen locks.

With the new teams, how is the SEC Tourney going to work (seeding, byes, etc.)? (@Kaveh0915)

Because it's worth writing it out here: Now that the SEC has no divisional play in basketball, the SEC Tournament is switching to a new format for the 2013, 2014, and 2015 SEC Tournaments.

In past years, teams were seeded based on divisional standings, the top two teams from each divisions got first-round byes, and the other eight teams were seeded and played on Thursday for the right to play those top four teams in quarterfinal matchups on Friday. Now, all 14 teams are seeded from No. 1 to No. 14 based on the SEC standings, and the No. 11 through No. 14 teams will play on Wednesday for the right to play the No. 5 and No. 6 seeds on Thursday, along with the Nos. 7-10 teams. Friday's quarterfinals will feature the top four teams facing what remains of those first two rounds.

To illustrate this now, a) look at the bracket...

...and b) consider this practical example: If No. 1, Florida will play its first game against the winner of the No. 8 (currently LSU) and No. 9 (currently Texas A&M) teams on Friday. No. 3 Kentucky would also play its first game on Friday, but could play No. 14 Mississippi State, if the Bulldogs can get past No. 11 Auburn and No. 6 Arkansas on Wednesday and Thursday.

This seems confusing, but the SEC Tournament should really only have about four teams this year anyway, so just start paying attention on Friday and save yourself the trouble of figuring out the first two rounds.

Are 2 prunes too few? 3, too many? (@whostheboff)

I really like prunes, so there's no number that is too many for me.