Sunday March 23, 2014 Hoops Notebook: UF's schedule helped prepared Gators for this run
Updated: 10:50am, March 24
Updated: 10:50am, March 24
(Photo by Miami Herald)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- After Florida pounded Pittsburgh out of the NCAA South Region field Saturday, both the Panthers and their coach spoke repeatedly about the Gators being the most physical team they’d faced all season.
Basically, the way UF beat and bodied up took the Panthers aback.
But look at Pitt and who it played this season, then consider the resume Florida put to the NCAA Selection Committee. When comparing the two, the outcome of the game -- UF by a comfortable 16 points -- should not have come as a surprise. Those who thought otherwise put a little too much into what happened Thursday night against Alabany.
Anyone who thought the version of Florida that showed up against the Great Danes was going to be there against Pitt either either hasn’t paid attention to the Gators this season or doesn’t know Billy Donovan.
Going into Saturday's game, Pittsburgh checked at No. 39 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI), one of the primary metrics used by the committee to select and seed the tournament. The Panthers had beaten one team (North Carolina in the ACC Tournament) in the RPI Top 25 and were 2-7 against RPI Top 50 teams; 7-9 against the Top 100.
Pitt’s strength of schedule checked in at 66th and its non-conference SOS was a woeful 230th.
In essence, the Panthers did not have much of any success against really good teams to hang their hats heading into a game against the nation’s No. 1 ranked squad.
The nation’s No. 1 RPI team, also.
Against the RPI Top 25, the Gators were 4-2. They were 10-2 against the Top 50 and 17-2 against the Top 100, having played the 22nd-toughest overall schedule and 21st-hardest non-conference schedule.
A game against Pitt wasn't going to be daunting. Not after playing the likes of Kentucky and Tennessee (three times each), plus Wisconsin, Connecticut, Kansas and Memphis. That's why teams with aspirations of be major players in March schedule great non-conference games.
Funny how it works.
Look at who’s left in the NCAA field now. The Southeastern Conference, blasted all year for being arguably the worst BCS basketball conference, has all of its tournament three teams still playing and Florida played nine games against the teams that were still alive as of 8:30 p.m.
BILLY D & BILLY B
Cameras caught New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, taking time from the NFL owners meetings up Interstate-4 at the Hyatt Grand Cypress to come to Amway Center, rising to his feet and cheering Casey Prather’s alley-oop slam dunk to Patric Young that help kick in UF’s rout of Pitt.
“He put in the scouting report today,” Donovan joked afterward.
Belichick and Donovan are friends, with Donovan having sought out the Patriots coach back in 2006 to pick his brain about dealing with the pressure of defending a championship. The two have remained close, with Belichick even coming to Gainesville and speaking to one of Donovan’s former teams.
“I left him a couple ticket,” Donovan said. “I didn’t get a chance to see him ... but I’ve really enjoyed our relationship. It’s interesting to get a chance to talk to a guy like that. Most of the stuff we talk about is the whole coaching perspective of just dealing with people and motivating people and inspiring people. I appreciate the amount of time over the year he’s given me.”
Yahoo! sports columnist Eric Adelsen pinned down Belichick and wrote this excellent piece about Billy D after the game.
A pair of UF assistants are being mentioned as possible candidates for head coaching vacancies -- and both in the state of Florida.
John Pelphrey is among the names being kicked around for the South Florida job in Tampa, while Matt McCall is being linked to the post at Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton.
Pelphrey went a combined 149-126 during five seasons at South Alabama (2002-07) and four more at Arkansas (’07-11). There, Pelphrey replaced Stan Heath, ironically the coach was dismissed last week by USF. McCall was an assistant at FAU for three seasons (2007-11) under Mike Jarvis, who was fired two weeks ago.
Neither coach has been contacted about the posts -- they’re a little busy right now -- but it makes sense both would draw interest and be interested if approached. Joey Johnston, of The Tampa Tribune, had this story in Sunday's additions about the USF search.
CHARTING THE GATORS
With two more wins, Billy Donovan improved his all-time NCAA Tournament winning percentage to .750, which is fifth among active coaches. Here's the list of the top 12, which will change before the night's over.
Rank Coach School NCAAs Record Pct. 2014
1 Larry Brown SMU 7 19-6 .760 (NIT)
2 Mike Krzyzewski Duke 30 82-26 .759 0-1
3 Rick Pitino Louisville 19 50-16 .758 2-0
4 John Calipari Kentucky 15 40-13 .755 2-0
5 Billy Donovan Florida 14 33-11 .750 2-0
6 Roy Williams North Carolina 24 63-22 .741 1-1
7 Tom Izzo Michigan State 17 41-15 .732 2-0
8 Scott Drew Baylor 4 8-3 .727 2-0
9 Bill Self Kansas 16 36-15 .705 1-1
10 Sean MIller Arizona 7 13-6 .684 2-0
11 Steve Fisher San Diego State 14 25-12 .676 2-0
12 Thad Matta Ohio State 12 23-12 .657 0-1
THE OTHER VOICE
It’s always interesting to get the take from the opponent’s side. Both the players and media.
Here’s a couple stories from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, courtesy of Panthers beat writer Paul Zeise and columnist Ron Cook. Both gave the Gators’ their due, with Zeise wrapping the game from the Pitt angle and Cook opining there was no shame came in a loss to this Florida team.
Pitt was jettisoned from the NCAA’s first weekend for the fifth straight year.
As Cook put it, there was no use pointing fingers after the Panthers struggled to score and attack UF’s relentless defensive pressure.
"But the blame game is silly in this case.
Pitt could play Florida 10 times and wouldn't win once.
Florida is that much better."
The game story in The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review likened what UF’s Scottie Wilbekin did to the Panthers to the same punishment inflicted by another Scottie (same spelling) in 2009. That was when Villanova All-American Scottie Reynolds ousted its then-Big East rival Pittsburgh from the Elite Eight with a game-winning basket with just 0.5 seconds remaining.
Everyone knows it's not because he's not a fanatical practioner of his art, but UF sophomore shooting guard Michael Frazier II has found the 3-point going rough in his six NCAA Tournament games the last two seasons.
After going 3-for-10 from the floor and 2-for-9 from deep against Pittsburgh, Frazier has now made just six of his 24 shots in NCAA play (24 percent) and five of 21 from 3-point range (that's 23.8 percent). He averaged just 6.5 points in the first two rounds of this tourney.
Fro what it's worth, Frazier was at the Amway Center at 8 a.m. Saturday and took advantage of the 30-minute early riser block each team gets in the opening NCAA weekend. Rest assured, opponents crunching UF's numbers won't assume Frazier's tourney slump will continue against them.
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