Bulldogs Try Not To Get Chomped In The Swamp: Mississippi State At #2 Florida
- CoachingRick Ray is in his first year as a head coach. He was most recently an assistant at Clemson. He inherited a team that returned just two contributors from a group that greatly underachieved last year.Billy Donovan’s resume speaks for itself; what he’s done at Florida is remarkable. He came within a late collapse in the regional final from reaching his fourth Final Four last year. This year’s team is certainly capable of getting there.
- OffenseLike Florida, Mississippi State is balanced, except the scoring totals are lower. The Bulldogs are a bottom-tier offensive team and shoot poorly from beyond the arc—just 28 percent.Pick your poison against the Gators, who can score inside and out and always have multiple three-point threats on the floor. They are balanced, too, with five players averaging between 9.5 and 13.2 points.
- DefenseTeams with decent offenses haven’t had trouble scoring on Mississippi State. They don’t register many blocks or steals, but the Bulldogs have managed to force turnovers at an above-average rate.Florida’s offensive firepower can mask the fact that this team ranks No. 1 in the country in defensive efficiency, allowing just .81 points per possession. The Gators clean up on the defensive boards.
- Bench DepthRay has a true eight-man rotation, as three players off the bench get significant minutes. That’s not counting Wendell Lewis, a key senior who has been injured since early December.Donovan can turn to junior forward Will Yeguete or freshman guard Michael Frazier, a 46 percent three point shooter, when he wants to give his starters some rest. Keep an eye on Yeguete, however, as he left Tuesday’s game with a knee injury.
Nobody envies Ray in this situation. Mississippi State is 2-7 in the SEC and already lost by 35 to Florida at home. Now they go to Gainesville on the heels of Florida’s worst game of the season. The Gators will be hungry and focused, which is bad news for the Bulldogs. -Andrew Kahn, College Basketball Contributor