In a little over an hour, the highly anticipated match-up between the University of Florida and the Wisconsin Badgers will tip. Both schools are vying for a spot in the Elite Eight, and unwilling to end their seasons. The teams have not met up yet this season, and both are riding the waves of a successful post-season. Last week in the round of thirty-two, Wisconsin upset Villanova, the defending national champions (and busted many brackets in the process- mine included), while Florida easily topped Virginia to win their way in to the Sweet Sixteen. What must Florida do to keep their post season alive? Here are a few keys to the game.
1. Defense It was the key to Florida’s dominating win last weekend over the Cavaliers, and to win tonight, that trend must continue. Guarding forwards Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ will be a major key in winning the defensive battle, as they carry the Badgers on their backs with their smooth ball-handling skills and high shooting accuracy. As Florida head coach Mike White told FloridaGators.com earlier this week, we must limit their touches to the ball.
2. Chiozza, Barry, and Allen While each of the players have an equally important part in ensuring the team’s success, for us to take home a win tonight, these three men must play to the best of their ability. Chiozza’s speed and ability to quickly move the ball down the court will definitely be an advantage for Florida, but we also need him to put a few through the hoop, and continue to be a leader on the court. Barry, meanwhile, will come off the bench, and tonight, he needs to be smarter with the ball and the shots he takes. His accurate and unique (as well as entertaining) free throw style could help give the Gators an edge over the Badgers. And speaking of shooting accuracy, KeVaughn Allen needs to be hot tonight as well. Last weekend he scored under than five points, and for Florida to stay with Wisconsin’s up-tempo offense, we need him to put as many points on the board as possible. His mother will be in attendance tonight, and historically, he plays well when she is in the building. You can read this article about it from FloridaGators.com.
3. Minimal Fouls Not only did losing senior John Egbunu to injury in February take away leadership and experience, but it also forced Florida to turn to their bench. Freshman Gorjok Gak has stepped up and quickly become a household name for Florida fans. While this has tremendously impacted Florida’s play on the court, it also means our bench is more shallow. As a result, we can’t afford for one of our starters to get into foul trouble. Last week, the team did a phenomenal job of guarding without fouling, and that’s another trend that must continue tonight. For Florida to win and advance, we must keep all five starters out of foul trouble and on the court.
While this game will undoubtedly be a close one, Florida has the tools they need to come away with a victory. If each player makes smart decisions, shoots accurately, and plays to the best of his ability, tonight’s game won’t be our season’s last.