Few Sweet 16 match-ups will provide the combination of opposing style, star power and parity as Florida and BYU's clash tonight. While the Cougars ride the coattails of their star Jimmer Fredette (for the most part), the Gators can burn teams with a variety of weapons, but none with the degree that the BYU senior can.
All that aside, the winner of this game advances to the Elite Eight, leaving them just one game shy of reaching the final weekend of the college basketball season. Let's not forget either, the Gators likely still remember their 99-92 double overtime loss to BYU in last seasons first round, a game in which Jimmer scored 37 points, but the back breaker was the 26-point effort from Michael Loyd Jr.
This game - on paper at least - has the potential to be the best game of the Sweet 16 (or pretty darn close depending on VCU and Florida State's tilt).
Follow after the jump for a breakdown of this two vs. three meeting.
BYU Cougars, 3-seed Southeast Region
No matter what anyone says, no matter how many side arguments there are, it all starts and ends with Jimmer Fredette. With that said, despite the seniors prolific scoring ability, the Florida Gators would be wise to avoid collapsing 100% on the guard and leaving his teammates alone, as there are other weapons on the floor for the Cougars. While 28.8 points per game is an astronomical total, you don't get to be the 8th most efficient offense in the country with just one player on the court. BYU likes to get up and down the floor, but manages one of the lowest turnover rates in the nation, a dangerous combination for opposing defenses.
Lost in the shuffle this season has been the play of Jackson Emery, who from an efficiency standpoint has actually been better than Fredette in certain facets of the game. While no one will question Jimmer's ability to devastate teams from beyond the arc, Emery actually has a usage rate double the seniors in spot up scenarios with a scoring efficiency that is in the 93rd percentile nationally (Fredette is in the 99th). Other members of the offense have stepped up in various play types, with Noah Harstock proving an excellent scorer in spot-up and transition scenarios, while Kyle Collinsworth averages an above average .84 points per possession in isolation sets.
Of course, one other factor at the offense end that can't be overlooked is BYU's production at the free throw line. Over 13% of the Cougars possessions end with them going to the line where they rank 15th nationally in team shooting percentage at 76%, which undoubtedly is a huge ace in the hole in a close postseason game.
We know the Cougars are a respectable defensive team and thus far have managed fairly well in the NCAA Tournament, holding Wofford and Gonzaga to an average of 66.5 points. With that said the Bulldogs finished with a +11 advantage on the glass and facing a strong Florida frontcourt, chances are BYU will be fighting an uphill battle once again in the rebound battle. Furthermore it should be noted that the Cougars are below average at defending offensive rebound possessions (not preventing), while the Gators have done a very good job of converting on second chance scoring opportunities inside this season.
Again though, if Jimmer manages to go off as he has so many times this season, all of this could fly right out the window, he's that good.
Florida Gators, 2-seed Southeast Region
Florida's strength lies with its enigmatic offense - you simply never know where the points are coming from with the Gators. Four different players average in double figures with Alex Tyus not too far behind either at 8.6 points per game. Furthermore, Florida can create match-up problems with the speedy Erving Walker and SEC Player of the Year Chandler Parsons who at 6-foot-9 can play on the perimeter and shoot from the outside.
Florida has one of the 15 most efficient offenses in the country, shooting well from beyond the arc and on two-point field goals, while also proving to be one of the top offensive rebounding programs in the nation. While the Gators are solid across the board when it comes to scoring the basketball, they have been at their best entering the ball to the low post and when running in transition. Vernon Macklin takes care of things inside, accounting for more than 61% of the teams post-up possessions according to Synergy Sports Technology, shooting a very strong 56% in this setting and 58% overall. When running the break, not surprisingly the trio of Walker, Parsons and Kenny Boynton handle the majority of the possessions, with Boynton proving the most efficient scorer at 52% shooting.
The Gators are almost as good at the other end of the court, posting the 36th best adjusted defensive efficiency in the country according to Ken Pomeroy. Florida defends the perimeter well and does an equally good job of avoiding sending opposing players to the free throw line at a high rate. As a whole, the team is at its best with transition defense, ranking in the 91st percentile according to Synergy Sports Technology, allowing just .893 points per possession on 44% shooting. This certainly will play into their favor against a BYU team that likes to play up and down. What doesn't play into Florida's hand however is their well below average isolation defense, especially considering that Jimmer Fredette accounts for nearly 80% of the Cougars touches here and is one of the best iso scorers in the country. It's a safe bet that Billy Donovan will throw a variety of defenders at Jimmer and bring additional players over to help, not necessarily doubling the basketball, but doing just enough to make the star aware of the help that is awaiting.