Generally good enough most nights, but rarely great
I’ve got some great news for Tennessee fans hoping for a relief from opponents having good nights offensively. This Florida offense has been trending downward for the most part over the last month. Terrific! Unfortunately, this still means it’s significantly better than Tennessee’s own offense.
The Gators have only put a couple of true complete performances together on offense since the Tennessee game: a Georgia road win where they dropped 1.274 PPP and a road win over West Virginia where they got 30 free throws and hit some key threes. Otherwise, it’s mostly been fine and agreeable save for a nasty home loss to South Carolina. Since the Tennessee game, Florida’s gone 6-3 and has been particularly effective inside the two-point line, mostly thanks to Colin Castleton’s post-up efficiency:
And Tre Mann’s sudden sky-high confidence from everywhere on the court, particularly in the runner/floater department:
The two have combined to average 29.4 PPG since the Tennessee game, and by a pretty significant margin, they’ve been Florida’s best players. Noah Locke remains a very talented shooter, but is very much Just A Shooter at this point. Tyree Appleby isn’t an efficient shooter or overall player. Scottie Lewis has taken a step back in his second season, with an elevated turnover rate and no evident progress shooting-wise. So it’s mostly been Castleton and Mann’s job to drive this thing home, and they’re doing what they can.
As mentioned earlier, Florida’s only had a couple of truly excellent performances offensively in the last two months, but the bigger key is this: they’ve also only had two or three true duds. On most nights, the Florida offense is a fine, agreeable-enough thing that works nicely with a defense that’s also been very good for most of the season. I’d say that you generally know what you’re working with in about 80% of Florida’s outings, which is remarkable after they lost their best player very early in the season.
Lots of ball screens, but not many off-ball
Seeing as I embarrassed myself with a score prediction that was off by (checks notes) 34 points last time, I’ll try and be more conservative here. You’ll see Florida work in a lot of on-ball screens to try and force defensive switches, which caused Tennessee some massive headaches last time out.
Florida ranks in the 88th-percentile in P&R offense, no doubt driven by Mann’s own excellence in ball-handling. There’s not a fantastic passer on the Florida roster, to be honest, but Mann comes closest. He’s been very good at using his own gravity to draw in multiple defenders, which he can use to kick out to one of Florida’s shooters, preferably Noah Locke (48-for-118, 40.7%):
Mann is also an isolation-heavy player, which doesn’t appear to really be to anyone’s benefit. Florida as a whole possesses a 36.1% eFG% on isolation possessions, which is horrendous. And yet: nearly 11% of their possessions end in an isolation. Mann is the worst offender, taking 35 ISO field goal attempts (no one else has more than 13) and not doing a terribly good job at hitting many of them:
Florida’s offense looks relatively unusual in 2021 because they really don’t run a ton of off-ball screens for shooters. Per Synergy, just 14 of Florida’s 1,152 field goal attempts are the result of an off-ball screen, which is wild. Even Tennessee’s got a substantial amount more than that. Instead, it’s just a lot of drives, kicks, and cuts, as seen above, along with some ISO play. Castleton is probably the smartest player on the roster in terms of knowing when to cut to the basket:
Turnovers are proving to be a serious problem
Lastly, there is something very important about this Florida offense that requires some discussion: turnovers. Remember when I said earlier that Florida’s offense has taken a small, but noticeable dip over the last month? It isn’t because of poor shooting; they’ve hit 55.3% of their twos and have been an average three-point shooting team for about four years now. Instead, it’s because they’ve turned it over on 21.7% of possessions in their last 10 games, a rate that ranks 306th of 347 teams nationally.
Really, this is the aspect of Florida that’s holding them (and me) back from saying they very well could be a Sweet Sixteen team. Their defense has been really good for most of SEC play, they shoot the ball well offensively, and they hit the boards at an above-average rate. If they found a way to cut down on turnovers, you could pretty easily envision 7 seed Florida making a surprise second weekend run. Yet it’s kind of hard to make yourself believe that for two reasons: 1. Head coach Mike White; 2. They’ve turned the ball over on at least 20% of possessions in nine of 20 games. That’s just not ideal.
Here’s a quick scout of the Florida rotation; only players getting at least 10 minutes per game in SEC play are considered. Positions in parentheses are from Bart Torvik’s algorithm. The top five players are the assumed starters.
- #22 Tyree Appleby (combo G). A very big fan of shooting the basketball. Not really a true point guard, but neither is anyone else on this roster.
- #10 Noah Locke (combo G). You remember this guy. Locke is the roster’s three-point specialist, sitting at a 40.7% hit rate on 118 attempts this year and 40.3% on 514 for his career. Under no circumstances can you leave him open…unless he’s inside the three-point arc.
- #1 Tre Mann (combo G). The only three-level scorer Florida really has, and a darn good one at that. Still hasn’t done a great job of finishing at the rim and has a lot of bad possessions in isolation.
- #4 Anthony Duruji (stretch 4). Lowest-rated starter, but there’s no clear replacement beyond going to a true four-guard + Castleton lineup. That’s what I would do, but I don’t get paid very much money. Duruji is not a consistent shooting threat, but he has to take threes to keep Florida’s offense spaced properly.
- #12 Colin Castleton (center). The best player on the team and the best rim protector. He’s also the biggest threat on the offensive boards and has a very low turnover rate for a center. A smart basketball player, especially in the post; Tennessee needs to keep the ball out of his hands.
- #5 Omar Payne (center). Very rarely shoots, never takes threes. 4-out, 1-in, and he’s the one in.
- #23 Scottie Lewis (wing G). Lewis has been strangely awful since the Tennessee game and has played his way out of Florida’s starting lineup. Has scored double-digits just twice in Florida’s last eight games.
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