Florida plays Yale at 7 p.m. tonight in the O'Connell Center (SEC Network or WatchESPN), and I could tell you all the things that I think will happen from Florida's perspective to preview the Gators' game with the Bulldogs, who knocked off defending national champion UConn at UConn on Friday night.
Or I could turn to my good friend John Ezekowitz, who has literally written (the chapter in) the book (that is the College Basketball Prospectus) on Ivy League hoops. Ezekowitz is a Harvard grad and superfan, and one of the brightest basketball minds I know, but, more importantly for our purposes, he actually watches Ivy League basketball, and has plenty of observations to make.
So I Gchatted with him this afternoon about this game. (My messages are in bold.)
So what do we need to know about Yale?
Other than that Harvard is better
Yale is really, really good
They bring back ~75% of their minutes and scoring from last year.
Justin Sears is their most talented player. He is an athletic power forward who would start for a lot of SEC teams.
Is there a comparison Florida fans would know?
(Former Arkansas forward) Marshawn Powell too obscure?
No, not really
(Former Alabama forward) JaMychael Green is another good one
The kind of rugged, strong player who can create for himself in the post
(Sears also went for 15 on 11 shots two years ago, when Florida had Patric Young to man up on him)
Senior guard Javier Duren's improved play has been a key driver of Yale's success at the end of last season and this season
stopping Duren in transition and forcing turnovers will be key for Florida's defense
Duren had 14 against Florida two years ago, so it's not like they're not aware of him
But Florida had Kenny Boynton (who had 28, and an insane 225 Offensive Rating, thanks to eight threes) then
Defensively, Yale is a bit undersized but they play very tough
50th in Defensive Efficiency as an Ivy is really good
Do they pack it in?
Yes and Duren is a pest on the perimeter
Sears gets into foul trouble, though
That might play into Jon Horford's hands
Horford's not the most athletic post ever, but he's got tremendous savvy
So Duren is the point and Jack Montague, UConn-killer, is the off guard?
He plays 2 alongside Makai Mason, a freshman who has swagger
Matt Townsend is not only a very good basketball player, but he also got the Rhodes Scholarship 2 weeks ago
he's the starting 3 or 4 idk
but watch him play tonight
he thinks he is incredible. He's like (former Princeton gunner) Dan Mavraides or (former Harvard gunner) Oliver McNally
he is potentially the villain the ivies have been missing
Yeah, because the rest of us don't think of ALL of you as the villains...
So is Yale good enough to make the Ivy a two-bid league?
Well, it sort of hinges on whether they beat y'all tonight
I personally am not a believer in #2BidIvy
but how about this: Yale is just as good as the Harvard team that beat New Mexico in the NCAAs 2 years ago
So how does Florida beat Yale?
1) Get Yale into foul trouble early
Let Kasey Hill drive?
or DFS and Horford work inside
2) Turn Yale over/run off of long shots missed.
3) Force Yale to take jump shots
I think 2) and 3) are more likely than 1)
But if Horford and Chris Walker can hold their own, it gets tough to get to the rim
The KenPom prediction is Florida 63, Yale 55. That make sense to you?
I think either Florida is up 10-17 most of the game and wins comfortably
or this game goes to the wire
I could absolutely see either one of those things happening, too
Let's hope ten thousand men of Florida get victory tonight
I am (and this is heretical, I know) rooting for Yale
what is good for the Ivies in the non-conference is good for Harvard
The Florida Gators: Great at producing strange bedfellows
Thanks to Ezekowitz for his contributions, as always (he's been a vital, if informal, component in my basketball coverage here over the years), and thanks to you all for dealing with the formatting of this post.
I'll be taking this one in en vivo, so I'll be on Twitter and not in the Game Thread, but I do expect Florida to bounce back after its awful second half against Kansas on Friday and get a win, perhaps a comfortable one.
Yale's not dumb (this would seem obvious, but...), and will have the dribble-kick stuff that worked well against the Jayhawks scouted, but Florida's obviously got a different caliber of athlete than the Elis do (Hill and Walker are massive mismatches for Yale, and Duren on Hill would minimize the benefit of Duren's height, because it's not as if Hill will be firing away, hopefully), and I could definitely see Michael Frazier II putting an end to the slow start of his junior year by bombing away on familiar rims. (This is Florida's first home game in 19 days.)
If Florida loses, though? It's well and truly time to panic.