clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Florida vs. Miami, Game Thread: Gators seek upset in eye of the storm

New, comments

Florida faces a tough Miami team in Coral Gables.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Florida probably shouldn't win Tuesday night's game with Miami (7:00 p.m., ESPN2 or WatchESPN), a team that comes into the clash with a national ranking in the polls, a top-20 ranking in KenPom, and convincing wins over top-40 KenPom teams Butler and Utah.

But "probably shouldn't" doesn't mean "can't" — and Florida will certainly have a chance at the BankUnited Center.

Miami is an exceptional offensive team, ranked third in offensive efficiency by KenPom, and the Hurricanes get their points in a variety of ways. Angel Rodriguez, who shot down Florida and ended the Gators' multi-year home winning streak last fall in Gainesville, is a capable scorer and slasher, and decent shooter; Sheldon McClellan is both the most efficient 'Cane as a slasher and a top-shelf sniper, making better than half of his threes, though he played just 18 minutes against Charlotte in Miami's last game thanks to a nagging injury; Tonye Jekiri and Ivan Uceda form a terrifying pair of bigs, with Jekiri anchoring the Miami defense down low and Ivan Cruz Uceda shooting an even better clip from three than McClellan. Jim Larrañaga has made over the 'Canes in his image since arriving in Coral Gables, and they resemble a souped-up version of the George Mason team that made a Cinderella run to the Final Four 10 seasons ago.

Florida, you may recall, ended that run. And Florida had Miami dead to rights in Gainesville last year: The Gators led by 12 at halftime and by 15 early in the second half, before a cold spell for them and a scalding stretch for Rodriguez erased that advantage. This Florida team's seemingly better at getting points consistently, with John Egbunu and Dorian Finney-Smith allowing for interior scoring and offensive rebounding that has provided stability at a time when no Gator is shooting well.

But if there's any one thing Miami is truly bad at, it's defending the arc: Opponents are shooting 38.6 percent from three on the 'Canes, and Larrañaga's team is merely above average at preventing threes from being taken. Tonight would be a good time for a Gator to get hot, in other words.

Whether that happens is obviously something that remains to be seen, but if Florida can keep Egbunu on the court (and neutralize Jekiri as a result), and if McClellan is less than 100 percent, I think good shooting could swing a win for the Gators.