After a blowout loss to Florida State on Monday and a stunning defeat at the hands of Loyola of Chicago on Wednesday, the Florida Gators are a team in desperate need of a week.
If they’re going to get one of those this week, it will have to come in Newark and over Cincinnati (6 p.m., ESPN2) — a squad that plays like it needs its victories.
The Bearcats aren’t truly great at any one thing on offense, but it’s hard to find a weakness for them at that end except for free throws. Forward Gary Clark is a load down low, a talented rebounder who also draws fouls and converts at the line efficiently. Cane Broome and Justin Jenifer — these are both real names — shoot well from distance, giving the Bearcats an inside-out attack that has scored 70 points in every game this year.
And Cincy is truly great on defense. The Bearcats own the nation’s second-best two-point field goal percentage allowed and are very good at forcing turnovers and preventing offensive rebounds, skills that have limited many of their opponents. Their perimeter defense is somewhat porous, though — and if we could be sure that Florida will shoot well, we could forecast that as something Florida can take advantage of.
We can’t be sure of that.
Florida has shot well in its wins and poorly in its losses and a close call against New Hampshire, and the Gators’ accuracy has seemed to correspond rather well with their effort and success on defense. When the shots fall, Florida plays with intensity at both ends of the floor; when they don’t, the Gators tend to lapse more often. That’s not uncommon, nor is it a death knell — but it is something Mike White will probably have to rectify if Florida is to have any chance of winning when not white-hot from distance.
Of course, with snow falling outside and a rugged defense ready for them, the Gators could simply surprise us all by reverting to their hot shooting. Anything is possible.
But the dire possibility of a winless week is also before the Gators. And it will be very interesting to see how they react to that prospect.