FLORIDA FOOTBALL & RECRUITING COVERAGE
After a long season filled with ups-and-downs, it’s finally time for some Madness. For the third straight year, the Florida Gators (19-15, 9-9) have earned an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. This time around, the Gators will be the No. 10 seed in the West Region where they have drawn a match-up against No. 7-seed Nevada Wolf Pack (29-4, 15-3).
The team’s face off Thursday night in Des Moines, Iowa with a 6:50 scheduled tip off on TNT.
Tale of The Tape:
No. 7 Nevada Wolf Pack
- Record: 29-4
- Head Coach: Eric Musselman
- Leading Scorer: Caleb Martin, 19.2 PPG
- AP Ranking: 20
- KenPom Ranking: 25
- NET Ranking: 23
8.3 PPG, 5.7 RPG
7.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG
17.3 PPG, 9.6 RPG
19.2 PPG, 5.1 RPG
11.7 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 5.1 APG
Like the Gators, the Wolf Pack are making their third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. As a No. 7-seed last season, the Wolf Pack made a run to the Sweet 16, before being bounced by Cinderella story Loyola-Chicago. After Nevada came bursting onto the scene last March, they had heavy expectations heading into this season.
Nevada was ranked 7th in the preseason AP poll due to their tournament run and returning the amount of production they did. They were ranked as high as fifth in the AP poll during the season.
The Wolf Pack are one of the most experienced teams in the country, with all of their starting five being fifth-year seniors. Led by twins, Cody Martin and Caleb Martin, the Wolf Pack have had one of the best offensive attacks in the country.
The Martin’s certainly make the Wolf Pack click, as Cody runs the show as the point guard while Caleb is the team’s leading scorer. Jordan Caroline is also a handful to deal with, being a tremendous athlete and the Wolf Pack’s leading rebounder. Caroline missed their last outing due to a sore Achilles, but all signs point to him being good to go.
Plain and simple, the Wolf Pack know how to get buckets. They’re averaging 80.7 points a game, which is good enough for the 25th best in the country. Nevada can get it done offensively in a number of ways. They are big enough to score down-low and can stretch out beyond the arc, shooting 35% from three. The Gators will need to slow down the Wolf Pack’s scoring while also having a strong night offensively themselves.
Nevada also has the advantage in size and experience. The shortest Wolf Pack starter is 6-foot-7 and the Gators have struggled containing size for the majority of the season. And as mentioned, Nevada is one of the most veteran-laden team’s in the nation. That could play a big factor, as the Gators on the other hand will need contributions from freshmen.
The talent the two teams have faced over the season is a drastic difference. Nevada has only played two games against “Quadrant 1” opponents, compared to the Gators 16. The Wolf Pack haven’t been tested quite like the Gators have and that could be a difference.
Also, Nevada hasn’t been playing their best as of late. Three of their four losses on the season have come in the last eight games, which includes getting bounced from the Mountain West conference tournament in the semifinal against San Diego State.
No. 10 Florida Gators
- Record: 19-15
- Head Coach: Mike White
- Leading Scorer: KeVaughn Allen, 12.0 PPG
- AP Ranking: UR
- KenPom Ranking: 27
- NET Ranking: 31
8.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.9 BPG
8.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG
9.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG
12.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG
8.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 5.3 APG
After a strong run in the SEC conference tournament that had them playing their best ball of the season, the Gators made their way back into the Big Dance. It was a season filled with highs-and-lows for Florida, but they’ve found their way in the field of 64.
And now, the Gators are playing their best at the right time. They’ve been getting better efforts offense and seem to be clicking better than early this season.
A big part of that has been the growth and development of freshmen Andrew Nembhard and Keyontae Johnson. The two had strong conference tournaments, as Nembhard knocked down a game-winner against LSU and Johnson averaged 13.7 in three games.
The Gators veterans are doing their part too as they made a run into the tournament. KeVaughn Allen has arguably been the Gators top performer, minus a few games where he’s gone cold. Jalen Hudson’s ability to turn his season around may have been a turning point for Florida. Earlier in the season, Hudson looked out of sorts and his effort wasn’t to Mike White’s satisfaction, but that’s changed and he’s having a bigger role. Also, Kevarrius Hayes may be playing his best basketball in a Florida uniform. He too had a solid SEC tournament, where he averaged 12 points. Hayes will need to stay in his current form against a Wolf Pack squad that has good height.
Florida’s strength is no secret. Defense. The Gators led the SEC in scoring defense, allowing 63.6 PPG, which is good enough for the 21st best in the country. They also defend the perimeter well, as opposing teams are shooting 32% from beyond the arc. The difference in the game will likely come down to if the Gators can slow down the Wolf Pack. They haven’t seen defenses like Florida’s regularly throughout the season and could get rattled. If the Gators want to keep dancing, they’ll need to stymie Nevada’s attack.
As the Gators strength isn’t much of a secret, neither is their weakness. All season, offensive woes have plagued the Gators and cost them games. Florida has been accustomed to long scoring droughts and at this point in the season they can prove to be costly.
Florida can’t afford any long droughts, especially against the Wolf Pack. They can score in a hurry, and if the Gators aren’t getting it done on both sides of the ball, Nevada is fully capable of running away with the win.
- When: Thursday, 6:50 p.m. (EST)
- Where: Wells Fargo Arena, Des Moines, Iowa
- Broadcast: TNT
- Radio: Gators IMG Sports Network
- Spread: +2.5
- Total: 133.5