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Wisconsin-Florida: Pregame numbers and notes

March 24, 2017 Columns No Comments

NEW YORK – They get it done in a big way on both ends of the floor. Florida finished second in the SEC with an outstanding 109 offensive efficiency. On the defensive end they were allowing opponents a 94 efficiency, good for second place in conference. Sweet Sixteen opponent Wisconsin was seventh in the Big Ten with a 105 offensive efficiency while posting a conference leading 97 on defense.

What are some traits to look at in this matchup?

First, the tempo. Wisconsin plays at a pedestrian 64 possessions per game. Coach Greg Gard’s Badgers do a great job caring for the ball with a 16 percent TO rate, while forcing opponents into a 21 percent TO rate on their end. Florida plays at a decidedly uptempo 71-possession rate.

The Gators also do a great job of guarding the perimeter, as their 29.7 percent three-point percentage defense was good enough to lead the conference. Wisconsin does a great job guarding the interior, but on the perimeter they are a bit generous as Big Ten opponents have connected on 40 percent of their three-point attempts against the Badgers. In the win over Villanova on Saturday, they did limit the Wildcats to 31 percent shooting from deep – a performance that undoubtedly helped get them to New York.

Nigel Hayes holds court after the Badgers’ practice (Ray Floriani photo)

In general terms, what to look for? Who can impose their will to control tempo. The difference between 64 and 71 possessions is just seven in basic math, but in the course of a game it is monumental. Seventy or more possessions is uptempo, indicative of teams wanting to get out and run like Mike White’s Gators. It will be interesting to see if White can speed Wisconsin up, and if he can, will it have a distinct advantage?

The other point as noted is the perimeter. Florida will shoot the three and is good at it. Guarding the arc has been Wisconsin’s Achilles heel. To move on they will need another defensive performance outside as they did against Villanova in that second round meeting in Buffalo.

Florida got a sense of New York traffic. They held their closed practice at St. Francis in Brooklyn, then had a 45-minute bus trip to the Garden. That distance from Brooklyn Heights to midtown Manhattan is about four miles at most.

The numbers noted Florida’s ability on the perimeter. On his behalf White is concerned with Wisconsin’s interior. “They can score and draw fouls in the interior,” White said of the Badgers. “And then you have seven or eight guys who can really shoot it, led by (Bronson) Koenig, who is one of the best shooters in all of college basketball.”

White, savoring the moment, admitted he never felt pressure taking over for Billy Donovan. “There’s pressure on every coach in the country at every level,” White said.

Among the remaining teams only three of their coaches have won a national championship – Roy Williams (North Carolina), John Calipari (Kentucky) and Bill Self (Kansas). “There have been a lot of good coaches that have not won the whole thing,” Wisconsin’s Greg Gard said. Obviously Mark Few of Gonzaga and Bob Huggins of West Virginia come to mind. “You have to have a lot of things go your way,” Gard continued. “You have to be playing exceptionally well, you have to get some breaks along the way, you have to be healthy. You can go on and on about the obstacles you need to overcome…. you can have very good teams and something goes wrong along the way and you don’t get there.”

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