Heading into their match up with Michigan, Billy Donovan, a coach who’s noted for details or, as we’ve learned during the media time out, logistics, needed to come up with a game plan for his Florida team. One strategy would be to pressure the Wolverines and try to force as many turnovers as they could so the Gators would have numerous opportunities to score in the open court. That had been their usual plan throughout the season. Another method would be to make it a half court game so that the Gators could take advantage of their superior size and pound it inside because UM usually played with four guards and only one big man.
Donovan chose the one that exploited the inside mismatch. On paper it was an excellent philosophy - except for the fact that his inside guys weren’t as noted for their back-to-the-basket skills as much as they were for facing up and offensive rebounding. I wonder how much time Billy himself worked with those inside guys, explaining how vital it was they scored (as much as I’d like to think players listen to an assistant - having been one for 30 years - I fully understand their antennae tune in more sharply when the head man speaks). Not pressing the action defensively as much as they could have meant the greater majority of their point production had to come from the “bigs.”
It might have been a moot point because had his team extended its defense to attempt to create turnovers against Michigan, the Wolverines’ guards might have broken the pressure. Then any of their three point shooters (of which they have four on the floor during most possessions) would have been knocking down shots - scoring in threes.
Basically, there are two philosophies in forming a game plan: 1) if we go to our strength(s), will that be good enough for us to win or 2) would it better to attack their weaknesses? Naturally, there are others but for the most they’re derivatives of the two above. Unfortunately, the Gators looked much more reactive on defense and, while they were getting the ball inside, their bigs weren’t scoring, mainly because they’re not true back-to-the-basket players. Before you know it, they were down a couple. Touchdowns. It was 13-0 and it only got worse. UF attempted to rally but every mistake was magnified, e.g. fouling a three point shooter at the end of the half which thwarted the minor momentum they’d built.
Billy Donovan has currently been to three consecutive Elite Eights. Florida fans might be disappointed they haven’t gone farther. Well, Gator Nation, Ben Howland is available. Oh yeah, he committed the same crime at UCLA (although his were Final Four “failures.” For now, the Florida faithful can take solace in the fact they seem to be stuck with Billy the Kid - the same guy they cheered when he changed his mind and reneged on the offer he’d accepted from the Orlando Magic.
When a game between relative equals starts out like the UF-UM game did yesterday, it tends to balance out after a while or, as George Raveling used to say:
“The game will return to reality.”