Sleeper title contenders, Florida's unpredictability and more (cont.)
The not-so-mighty Florida Gators are very difficult to understand this season. Beating teams they maybe shouldn't have (at Tennessee, Kansas St., at Xavier) and losing to Jacksonville, UCF and South Carolina. The defense is very good, but is the offense just too predictable?
-- Kristopher Karns , Oshkosh, Wis.
I don't think they're difficult to understand at all. They're just not very good. (You do know that consistency is a part of being good, right?) Simply put, Florida is not a good enough defensive team to make up for nights when it isn't shooting the ball well from the perimeter. The Gators are ranked 63rd nationally in defensive efficiency, and they're eighth in the SEC in steals, 10th in the SEC in field-goal percentage defense and 10th in blocks. You'd also have to say that Kenny Boynton is one of the bigger disappointments in college basketball. The 6-foot-2 sophomore came to Gainesville with enormous hype out of high school, yet he is only making 29.5 percent from three-point range. (He made 29.4 percent as a freshman.) Neither Boynton nor Erving Walker do a good job attacking the rim, but they're streaky shooters, so when they're on, Florida can be tough to beat. When they're not on, there's not much by way of Plan B.
I think your mention of Villanova deserves a more complete answer. While there is some truth that 'Nova's offense is what the Wildcats pride themselves on, this team is a much better team on defense than last year's squad. However, unlike the Final Four team a few years ago, I'm not sure this edition has that extra defensive gear that can get it all the way to Houston.
-- Andy, Cherry Hill, N.J.
I agree that Villanova is a better defensive team than it was last year, and the numbers bear that out. The Wildcats are currently ranked 20th in the nation in defensive efficiency. Last year they were 62nd. I guess my problem with Villanova is that it still is not as good a defensive team as its ability would indicate. Do you know many more teams with as many quick, long and tough perimeter players? Yet Villanova is ranked ninth in the Big East in steals and eighth in blocks. I also believe that the Wildcats are too choosy about when they turn up the defensive heat. As I mentioned, their effort on the defensive end is too tied in to whether their shots are falling.
So yes, they're not bad, and they're better -- but they're not as good as they will need to be if they're going to compete for an NCAA championship.
How many total wins and Big 12 wins will it take Colorado to get into the NCAA tournament? I'm projecting seven teams getting in from the Big 12 unless the Big East takes 11. Then it would only be six.
-- Wes, Denver
First of all, I am definitely not buying that the Big East will get 11 teams. It seems like we go through this every year in the Big East. In January it looks like everybody in the league will get in, and then invariably a team or two go on a huge losing streak and the number gets dwindled. Yes, there are three more at-large bids on the board this year, but this league has never gotten more than eight teams in. It is not getting every single spot added by expansion.
As for the Buffs, it did not help their cause by losing at Nebraska on Tuesday night, so they still have some work to do before we can start talking about them as an at-large. Colorado has a huge problem: Its nonconference strength of schedule is ranked 300th in the RPI. To me, that means the Buffaloes have to go at least 10-6 in the conference during the regular season and then acquit themselves well in the Big 12 tournament to have a legit chance.
The best news for Colorado is it only has one bad loss (at San Francisco), so as long as the Buffaloes can avoid stumbling again against the teams in the league ranked below 100 in the RPI (Oklahoma, Nebraska, Texas Tech), they'll have a good shot. It would help if they could score another win over one of the top four teams in the conference, but I think the pivotal game for CU might be its game at home against Kansas State on Feb. 12. It's always nice to have a sweep over another potential bubble team in your league -- although K-State has some work to do before we can even consider it to be on the bubble.
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