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Florida vs. North Florida, Game Thread: Gators should wing Ospreys

Florida gets what should be its first breather of 2016-17.

NCAA Basketball: Florida Gulf Coast at Florida Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

When Florida’s men’s basketball team traveled to Jacksonville to meet North Florida in the first round of the 2016 Postseason NIT, it was with a clear view of the challenge before the Gators.

These were the Birds of Trey, after all. They shot threes. And made them.

But a year after finishing eighth in three-point percentage and fourth in effective field goal percentage as a result, Matthew Driscoll’s Ospreys have returned to Earth. The team that Florida plays on Thursday night (7 p.m., ESPN3 / WatchESPN) is not nearly as accurate from distance, nor nearly as good.

Those Ospreys shot nearly 41 percent from three, and thus it made sense that they took the sixth-most threes by percentage of total shots and had the second-largest share of their points from threes in the country. These Ospreys, without leading snipers Beau Beech and Trent Mackey — both seniors last year — are making the same 31.9 percent of their threes that notoriously poor-shooting Florida did in 2015-16.

And they aren’t making many other shots, either, converting on just more than 46 percent of their twos and only 63.3 percent of their free throws. Add to that a turnover rate of 28.5 percent, among the nation’s bottom 10 in that stat, and you get a team that has seen its offense plummet from one of the nation’s best to one of its worst.

The Ospreys do have scorer and shooter Dallas Moore, whose inflated scoring totals (19.1 points per game) have as much to do with him taking no fewer than 12 shots in any UNF game this year, but that’s about all that should scare these Gators — and their offense is still far better than their defense, which is No. 296 nationally in efficiency. That defense has given up 70 or more points in all but one game this year — which, considering that UNF has played NAIA Edward Waters and USCAA Florida National teams this year, is bad — and is chiefly good at free throw defense, which is probably not a real thing.

This is, by far, the worst outfit that Florida has seen this year, after four games around the state of Florida against mid-majors with legitimate NCAA Tournament aspirations and a three-game run in the AdvoCare Invitational against likely dancers Seton Hall, Gonzaga, and Miami. Florida beat Miami by nine on a neutral floor on Sunday; Miami trucked North Florida by 38 less than two weeks prior.

KenPom suggests Florida should only win tonight’s game, the Gators’ first true road contest of the year, by 14 points. But given how Florida’s press could put the screws to UNF, and how well the Gators shot in the gym they will play in just under eight months ago, I would not be surprised if the final margin is double that size.

At least.