Show Me My SEC Tournament Opponent, 2020-21: Florida

Florida offense

They really need Tre Mann

Prior to Sunday’s game, I remarked about how steadily fine Florida’s offense was – rarely great, rarely terrible, just fine. 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. And, well, Sunday.

Florida looked pretty solid offensively for about 15 minutes, thanks to a lot of buckets inside and some timely threes. They even led by 14 at one point! And then it all fell apart for two key reasons. The first is that, without Tre Mann, Florida’s pick-and-roll game was neutered because no other guard on the team can somewhat consistently score at all three levels like Mann. This led to a lot of struggles on the perimeter for the Gators, which resulted in anything from nasty missed shots to ten second-half turnovers, five of which directly resulted from an on-ball screen.

I can imagine that things will be a bit better if Mann is back in the fold, as pretty much everyone anticipates he will be. 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:

Colin Castleton very key for Florida’s ball-screen offense

Alongside Mann is Colin Castleton, the co-alpha of sorts on this Gator team. Since the first Tennessee game, Florida’s gone 6-4 and has been particularly effective inside the two-point line, mostly thanks to Castleton’s post-up efficiency. He’s really, really good down low, especially when on the court at the same time as Mann:

Mann likes to use him as the screener in their pick-and-roll actions. Castleton has a bit of a Fulkerson-like build in that he’s long and skinny, but he can swallow up a defender and upset the defensive gravity on the court pretty well. Tennessee hasn’t always defended the pick-and-roll perfectly this season, and a guy like Castleton can exploit that in various ways.

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 53.3% 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 21.9% of possessions in their last 10 games, a rate that ranks 317th 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 10 of 22 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. 20.4 PPG in last four fixtures. 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.
  • #2 Samson Ruzhentsev (stretch 4). Ruzhentsev randomly started yesterday because a pair of players showed up late to shootaround, I guess. Ruzhentsev went 0-for-4 from deep yesterday, which isn’t ideal, but it tells me he’s more than willing to toss ’em up from downtown.

NEXT PAGE: Florida’s defense is better

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