We here at Cardiac Hill decided to partner with another SB Nation site to learn about an opponent first hand. The Pittsburgh Panthers will have their hands full today against the Gators. Andy Hutchins, the managing editor of Alligator Army, was kind enough to answer some last minute questions for us.
Be sure to give Andy a follow and stop by Alligator Army to get more information about this matchup, and a big thank you to Andy for getting this turned around on such a short notice.
Q: I am not sure how many Pitt fans have gotten to see Florida play this season. So, how would you describe what this team likes to do offensively and defensively?
Florida is smart on both sides of the ball, and swarming on defense. On offense, Florida will run multiple ball-screens to initiate its offense, which can open up shooters for pick-and-pop threes, open lanes for Scottie Wilbekin or Kasey Hill to drive, or get favorable matchups underneath for Patric Young. Florida will also try hard to get Michael Frazier II open on back-screens and in transition for easy threes; he's lethal when he's on, and has been of late, which spells trouble for any team that lets him fire away. But Florida also lacks a second true perimeter weapon, so when Frazier is off, or slowed as he was against Albany, Florida can be forced to dump it low and hope for the best.
Defensively, Florida's approach is predicated on limiting easy shots whenever possible by defending the three well and stacking Young and Will Yeguete under the rim. Both Young and Yeguete are fantastic individual defenders, and the roommates are also phenomenal at bringing double teams to force the ball out of the post or create turnovers. But Florida is susceptible to midrange shooting, as it proved against Albany, and has allowed teams to make threes all year. The best place to attack the Gators is beyond the arc.
Q: It seems like the winner of the battle in the paint between Talib Zanna and Patric Young will go a long way in determining who emerges victorious. Do you agree?
That sounds right to me. Pitt lacks great interior players other than Zanna, and Florida lacks another reliable scorer. The player who ends up in foul trouble early will likely lose that matchup, but that could be either big guy. Florida can absorb a Young absence slightly better, I think, if tweener forward Dorian Finney-Smith and the boundlessly athletic Chris Walker give the Gators good minutes inside. But if one of the two guys has a monstrous 20-15 day, it will probably be Zanna, and will spell trouble for Florida.
Q: Can you give us one player outside of Prather, Wilbekin, and Young that Panthers fans need to keep an eye out for?
Having already mentioned Frazier above, Finney-Smith would be the obvious candidate here, but I think the Panthers need to worry more about Kasey Hill. He's been alternately excellent and a quintessential freshman point guard for Florida this year, and is coming off an excellent game against Albany, so he's due to underwhelm, but his incredible speed with the ball, knack for prying it loose, and ability to find shooters like Frazier in transition could create a 5-0 run in the blink of an eye.
That's the sort of thing that could bury Pitt or swing momentum in the Gators' favor, especially in Orlando.