Saturday, March 26, 2011

Basketball, a wedding and numerous assholes with differing agendas...

Who schedules a wedding in March? Assholes, that’s who. For the second time in as many years, one of my wife’s friends has a wedding scheduled during the meat of the second weekend of the tournament. Two key differences this year: (1) Last year there were no TVs to watch while
drinking/avoiding people at the reception and (2) Florida is playing in an important game during the wedding this year. It’s a bit of a wash, especially since this year’s wedding is a short affair (10-15 minutes) and its on the deck of an oceanfront hotel with the reception being held in said hotel. I plan on being at the hotel bar with 10 minutes left in the first half, at the latest.

Here’s the real problem though. Florida is playing Butler. Butler might be a “mid-major” but they’re bullies. For real. I’m not calling them the Pat Riley era Knicks but there is a bit of an element of that team to their game. They are, by far, the most physical team in the country and they bump, hit and push the opposition so often that many plays that would often be called fouls aren’t called against Butler simply because the refs can’t call everything. It’s an effective defensive strategy and one Butler is exceedingly good at executing. Look at their last two opponents, Pittsburgh and Wisconsin. Each is considered amongst the most physical teams in America, yet both of them were physically pushed around by Butler throughout much of their games. Florida, on the other hand, is not thought of as an especially physical or tough team. Part of this true and part of this is due to the perception of Florida as a program. This perception, I contend, is largely wrong. Florida was, early in Billy Donovan’s career, known for pressing, playing 10-12 guys and shooting tons of threes. However, as time has passed and Florida has become both more successful and more established, the Gators have become a program that thrives on quality halfcourt offensive basketball, good big men (look at the number of bigs Donovan has put in the NBA, its impressive, to say the least) and solid team defense. One need look no further than Thursday night’s win over BYU for evidence of this. Kenny Boynton did an exceptional job guarding Jimmer Fredette but was also helped out by the fact that nearly every time Fredette had even an ounce of daylight, there was a second (and often third) Gator defender flying at him with a hand up. So, you see, these teams are far more similar than most would have you believe. Right down to their boy wonder head coaches. We’ve all marveled at the story, success and likability of Butler’s Brad Stevens over the last 2-3 years but it’s easy to forget that despite having won 2 National Championships and being the 3rd all time winningest coach in SEC history, Billy Donovan is still only in his early 40s. Somehow, he’s still one of the nation’s most underrated coaches and he’s built a premier program in a place that had no record of sustained basketball success in the 70 some odd years before his arrival from Marshall.

If you can’t already tell, I’m pretty psyched for this game. I expect it to be a back and forth, physical affair that comes down to the last possession or two. With that said, and in the interest of time, here are a few keys to the game:

Shelvin Mack: Kenny Boynton will once again have his hands full with a physical, experienced and multi-talented guard. Mack carried Butler in their win over Pittsburgh last weekend and is fully capable of going off for 25-30 again today. Boynton is an underrated defender but is going to need the help of his long limbed teammates to keep Mack in check.

Florida’s frontline: I said this would be key in the BYU game, and it was. Florida has one of the country’s deepest, most athletic frontlines. They’ll need to feed Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus the ball early to put pressure on Smith (coming off an ankle injury) & Howard (prone to foul trouble) in order to establish them against a smaller Butler frontline. Alex Tyus gave Florida his best game in two years against BYU. Freshman phenom Patric Young had his best game of the year in the win over UCLA. Florida will need 2-3 big games out of their 5 man frontcourt rotation to come away with a victory.

The Point Guards: You can make the case that Florida’s most important player is Erving Walker. He’s tough, a natural leader and has taken (and made) more big shots for them this year than the rest of the team combined. He’s come a long way from the turnover prone, sometimes wildly out of control player he was last year. However, he still has days where he settles for his jumpshot too often and doesn’t control the pace like Donovan would like. He must take care of the ball, contend with Butler’s physical guards and be able to hit a few timely shots. On the other side, Steven Van Zandt is as much of a reason for Butler’s late season surge as anyone. His insertion into the starting lineup gave Butler another sorely needed shot creator and allowed Mack to move off the ball and concentrate his efforts on scoring. He’s going to see a number of Florida defenders today (Walker, Boynton, Scottie Wilbekin) and he’s going to have to be able to handle their pressure effectively while getting Butler into their halfcourt sets.

Chandler Parsons: As he goes, Florida goes. When Florida was losing to the likes of Jacksonville University early this season and fell out of the top 25, Parsons was struggling in nearly every area of the game, especially scoring as he was averaging about 8 pts/game. When Florida hit it’s stride during SEC play (13-3 overall), it was Parsons, leading the team in rebounding & assists (2nd in scoring), who was the catalyst for this run. The SEC Player of the Year must come up big today and fill the stat sheet if Florida is to advance to the Final Four.

Finally, a fun fact: Brad Stevens and Billy Donovan are a combined 4-0 in regional final games. Obviously, somebody’s perfect record won’t survive this evening. Should be interesting to see which one of these talented coaches it is.

40 comments:

Mark said...

In case you're wondering, this post is due to the request of our doofus overlord.

T.J. said...

And it is much appreciated.

Mark said...

BTW, I'm also quite pumped for UConn-Zona. I love both Kemba & Derrick Williams as individual players and am very interested in the dynamic of the matchup between two traditionally good/great programs playing each other for the first time in years. Obviously, I have a bit more of a rooting interest in Florida-Butler.

zman said...

You wrote the piss out of this post. Well done.

Kentucky's win last night likely sealed my victory in one pool, and if they can beat UNC then I think I should win my other pool. Never bet against a crooked guy like Coach Cal in a game played in a crooked place like Newark, NJ.

rob said...

still in the auditorium. still watching dancing. thank the man above for my laptop and cbs online.

Shlara said...

Barkley AND Jay Wright in studio today = humor AND eye candy. Nice.

rob said...

also, mark should write more often. get on that, teej.

Shlara said...

Wouldn't it be cool if the Wizards had a Wall & Mack backcourt next year?

Shlara said...

I'd take Derrick Williams on the Wizards too..

Danimal said...

Verne and raftery got a little extra saucy last night I believe. Raftery needs a haircut.

Danimal said...

By "the man above" u mean al gore I suspect?

Danimal said...

Howard ice cold.

Mark said...

Walked into the hotel bar right before the wedding and it was packed w/ Gators. Evidently there's a Gator club viewing party here. Nice. Missed most of the 1st half due to wedding. Now watching game w/ 3 HS friends. I'm a homer but it feels like Butler's going to get every call down the stretch.

Danimal said...

Bullshit call there. Lame.
I think Gatorade got this. Unfortunately.

KQ said...

has matt howard always been that shade of white? he looks like a vampire.

Shlara said...

KQ, he's the new Edward...

Shlara said...

OMG.
this
is aweomse

Mark said...

Butler gets a large amount of 50/50 calls. No, really.

KQ said...

he's not cute enough to be a cullen. and this game is aweomse. it would be much more fun if i was watching with someone other than myself.

KQ said...

wow.

Shlara said...

love Butler!!

Mark said...

It's still great to be a Florida Gator.

Shouldve won this game though, poor execution late & a lack of defensive stops at crucial moments.

Mark said...

Ive now missed the first 45 minutes of the reception. There's a good chance my wife hates me and all I have to show for it is a Gator loss. Oh well, might as well get drunk(er).

Mark said...

This wedding is WOP central. Amore has already been played, twice. More Crown please.

rob said...

i'm enjoying mark's wedding commentary. and i managed to watch nearly all of the game without alienating my family. technology is neat.

zman said...

Why the fuck would anyone buy or sell securities from their iPad while mountainbiking?

Mark said...

Because they're assholes, Z.

Wedding update: the hotel won't allow shots at the reception. I'm a vet so I ordered a Patron, neat. The other youthful attendees are idiotsvand have never heard this order before so they can't get enough of saying "neat". These people, are not my people.

Mark said...

I've also put a solid 2 hours in now so I've snuck out for the final 6 minutes of Zona-UConn.

Mark said...

Jeremy Lamb might go pro after this tourney. Seriously. It's doubtful his stock is ever getting much higher.

Danimal said...

Selling securities on ipad while mountainbiking is in my opinion way underrated.

Danimal said...

Wife just referred to the little cabinret housing the DVD player, receiver, and cable box as.....wait for it......"the media center." Ahl.

Danimal said...

Cabinret is mandarin for "cabinet"

Mark said...

Why was Arizona chucking 3s on the last possession? I'm half drunk but that makes NO sense.

zman said...

You play to WIN the GAMES!!

zman said...

The only things that would make those Porsche-as-schoolbus/snowmobile/pickup ads worse would be if one of the people in the was buying and selling securities from an iPad while piloting his Porsche.

Mark said...

There is another wedding at this hotel tonight. They ate rocking out to "Boot Scoot Boogie". Suddenly this WOP wedding doesnt seem so bad.

rob said...

that the brooks and dunn version or the nwa version?

Mark said...

Actually, it's the Sasha & Digweed version.

T.J. said...

VCU thread now open...

Danimal said...

Z- Spears' album drops this week. Can we get a review on that?

Danimal will b hanging out at Newark airport from 4 til 7. Tickets are $4.00. Hope to see you there.