Hoops Gator Gameday: Florida, Wisconsin square off in Sweet 16

Landon Watnick, Beat Writer
Inside the Gators
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No. 4 seed Florida vs. No. 8 seed Wisconsin

Friday, March 24, 2017 - 9:59 p.m. ET

NCAA Tournament East Regional in Madison Square Garden in New York City

TV: TBS / Radio: Gator IMG Sports Network

NO. 4 SEED FLORIDA GATORS (25-8, 14-4 SEC)

POS.

PLAYER

NOTABLE STATISTIC

YEAR

HEIGHT

WEIGHT

G

Kasey Hill

Averaging team-highs in assists (4.5 APG) and steals (1.7 SPG)

Sr.

6-1

175

G

KeVaughn Allen

Leads team with 13.4 PPG on 44.0% shooting

So.

6-2

183

F

Devin Robinson

Averaging 11.4 PPG and 6.3 RPG; logged 38 points, 18 rebounds combined against ETSU and Virginia

Jr.

6-8

200

F

Justin Leon

Recording 7.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG this season; scored 14 points during 21-0 run against Virginia

Sr.

6-8

196

C

Kevarrius Hayes

Leads team in blocks with 1.6 BPG, logged career-best six steals vs. ETSU

So.

6-9

218

Notable contributors: G Canyon Barry (Second on team with 11.8 points per game on 42.0% shooting), G Chris Chiozza (averaging 7.1 PPG, 3.7 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG; scored 14 points in second half vs. ETSU), F Keith Stone (3.6 PPG, 2.3 RPG), C Gorjok Gak (1.8 PPG, 1.3 RPG; scored 10 points on 5-of-5 shooting last weekend), C Schuyler Rimmer (1.2 PPG, 0.9 RPG), G Eric Hester (2.3 PPG)

OUT: C John Egbunu (torn ACL, averaged 7.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG before injury)

Head coach: Mike White (47-23 in second season at UF, 148-63 in six seasons overall)

Streak: Won 2

Last game: Won 65-39 against No. 5 seed Virginia in the round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament in Orlando last Saturday night

NO. 8 SEED WISCONSIN BADGERS (27-9, 12-6 BIG TEN)

POS.

PLAYER

NOTABLE STATISTIC

YEAR

HEIGHT

WEIGHT

G

Bronson Koenig

Leads team with 14.5 PPG on 42.2% shooting (39.5% from three); went 11-of-23 from downtown last weekend

Sr.

6-3

190

G

Zak Showalter

Averaging 8.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.8 APG & 1.5 SPG this season

RSr.

6-3

185

F

Vitto Brown

Recording 6.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG this season

Sr.

6-8

235

F

Nigel Hayes

Averaging 13.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG this year for Badgers

Sr.

6-8

240

F

Ethan Happ

Averaging 13.8 PPG to go along with team-bests in rebounding (9.1 RPG), assists (2.8 APG), blocks (1.2 BPG) and steals (1.8 SPG); just 49.4% on FTs

RSo.

6-10

232

Notable contributors: G D'Mitrik Trice(averaging 5.8 PPG, shooting 42.2% from downtown), G/F Khalil Iverson(3.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG), F Jordan Hill(1.6 PPG, 1.1 RPG), F Alex Illikainen(1.3 PPG, 1.5 RPG), G Brevin Pritzl(2.0 PPG, 1.1 RPG), F Charles Thomas IV(2.2 PPG, 1.3 RPG)

Head coach: Greg Gard (42-17 in second season at Wisconsin and overall)

Streak: Won 2 (and 5 of past 6)

Last game: Won 65-62 against No. 1 seed Villanova last Saturday in Buffalo, New York

STATISTICAL COMPARISON

STATISTIC

FLORIDA

WISCONSIN

RPI

10th

T-32nd

SOS

8th

83rd

KenPom.com ranking

4th

21st

Adj. offensive efficiency

26th

36th

Adj. defensive efficiency

3rd

8th

Adj. Tempo/Avg. Poss. Length

124th/53rd (16.1 seconds)

334th/343rd (19.9 seconds)

Three-point %

36.2% (116th)

35.8% (135th)

Two-point %

50.2% (136th)

51.0% (101st)

Free throw %

72.6% (101st)

64.3% (334th)

Off. Reb %

31.9% (77th)

35.8% (18th)

Opponent Off. Reb %

29.2% (174th)

25.5% (38th)

Points per game

77.9 PPG (67th)

72.1 PPG (199th)

Opponent points per game

65.7 PPG (37th)

61.8 PPG (11th)

Effective Field goal %

51.7% (115th)

51.9% (107th)

Opponent field goal %

45.3% (13th)

47.4% (40th)

Poss. w/ turnover

16.8% (58th)

16.9% (62nd)

Opponent poss. w/ turnover

21.1% (32nd)

19.6 (100th)

Opponent three-point %

30.4% (11th)

37.7% (304th)

Opponent two-point %

45.2% (30th)

42.8% (9th)

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Q&A WITH MIKE WHITE PREVIEWING FLORIDA-WISCONSIN

Q: Coach Gard mentioned in his press conference, he was kind of playing down the experience advantage of his team in this tournament. I'm just wondering, how do you feel about that, is that a bigger concern or is it more about how you're going to guard them in the interior?

White: "He would be better served answering that question, because I only look at it one way and that's the, we're looking at it as a first-time thing, of course. I don't know how much of a factor it is. I got to think it's a little bit of a fact to, I got to think that his guys having made runs like this, feel confident. Not saying that my guys feel unconfident. But for us, we're not sitting here complaining that we don't have a bunch of experience at all. It is, that is our biggest issue.

"That's our biggest concern is how we defend their interior. They have two borderline All-American bigs that are both tough, physical, skilled, can score on the interior, can draw fouls on the interior and they both can pass it. And then you've got a seven or eight guys that can really shoot it led by Koenig who is one of the best shooters in all of college basketball. So that's a pretty unique balance there. They present some issues and in trying to defend them."

Q. Specifically with Wisconsin they ranked 334th in free throw percentage. Not saying you're not necessarily going to go about and foul them, but is Hack-a-Happ necessarily a bad strategy to assess a more physical defensive approach in the interior?

White: "Yeah, we're not going that way. We're not. The big concern is foul trouble, because we're already thin up front, of course without John and we have got to be really physical, we have got to use physicality and legality at the same time. We have got to show our hands, we got to be very smart, those guys just really understand how to draw fouls. You mentioned Happ, he's a really good player. I don't anticipate him going 4-10 from the foul line. I do anticipate, regardless of how good of a job we do on him he's going to get to the foul line, he just understands how to do it."

Q. How do you balance guarding the interior and dealing with Bronson Koenig, who can get on a roll from the perimeter?

White: "That's the key to the whole game. They put you in a quandary. They really do. And I don't even know what that word means, but it's funny, I wish my managers were in here, because they would get a kick out of me saying that. Every day at noon ball, which never takes place at noon, I always say - we took an L yesterday to the managers, so they have been talking trash the whole time we have been up here in New York - but every time we score on them we say, 'We got you in a quandary, you don't know how to guard us.' It's just constant bad trash talking.

"But they really do put you in a quandary, again, if that is the right word. If you, if you're too extended on Wisconsin, Happ and Hayes have going to have a field day. And if you, if you're too condensed, if you put too much emphasis on defending the interior and they get 20 threes off and Koenig gets nine threes off, you just, you, it's lose-lose. And so do you go into the game saying, that we're just going to do whatever, we're going to double the post, triple the post, those guys aren't going to get touches we're not going to foul them? You're going to give up a million threes and they shoot the heck out of it. And Koenig is not the only guy. The guards they bring off the bench shoot it and all of their guards shoot it. If you're too extended, those front court guys are going to foul out our whole team.

"So, we're going to try our best as everyone that they have played has tried to do, we're going to try to do a pretty good job doing both and see where it leads. Who knows, with the, with in game adjustments if we sell out to one or the other. But we have got to limit amount of threes taken, obviously Koenig can't get anything easy. He's too good of a player. He's had an unbelievable run here as of late. And those other guys Happ and Hayes, again, we have got to limit their touches, nothing can be easy for them.

"They can't live at the foul line. We have got to be physical, but we have got to be smart, we have got to be sound we have got to understand their actions. They're tremendous defensively and we're sitting here we just spent five minutes on their offense, they're just very difficult to defend as well."

THREE KEYS TO VICTORY

1. Don't let Wisconsin dominate the interior: It's been the storyline all week, how Florida cannot let Happ and Hayes exert their will both scoring at the rim and working on the glass. The Badgers like to work the post with their bigs, and not having Egbunu available for this contest is definitely a blow. However, the Gators will need to stay aggressive but disciplined, avoid foul trouble and challenge Wisconsin's big men every step of the way. Oh, and keeping an eye on Koenig at the perimeter at the same time will be important. This is a big game for Hayes, Gak and Florida's forwards.

2. Make threes: For how good Wisconsin's halfcourt defense in the interior has been this season, it hasn't had nearly the level of success defending the arc. The Gators will hope that their three-point shooters will find a stroke and stay hot in Madison Square Garden. A cold outing from downtown, and it may be difficult to win Friday night.

3. Get a strong scoring performance from Allen and/or Barry: Thanks to a dominant weekend by Robinson - and Chiozza and Leon stepping up as well in much-needed ways - Florida cruised to the Sweet 16 despite poor shooting performances from Allen and Barry, its top two scorers this season. The Gators may need at least one of the two to climb out of a slump and provide a spark when it comes to perimeter shooting.

PREDICTION

Florida 71, Wisconsin 66: I made this prediction for our Wisconsin site's Q&A as well, but I'm going with my gut here: The Gators will win Friday night in a close contest that'll see them pull away in the final minutes. Wisconsin clearly holds the edge in the interior, but if Florida can control the tempo and hit shots from deep, then the Gators can pull this one out. Like they did against Virginia, a strong defensive squad in the halfcourt, the Gators must force turnovers and then push the ball out in transition to keep the Badgers on their toes. This Florida team has rekindled some momentum, and I don't think it'll die out on Friday night.

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