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Barstool Contender Series: Living and Dying by the 3 With Florida, Plus Top-25 Rankings

chris-chiozza

This was a series I started last season and something I want to continue this year. The goal of this is to highlight and discuss teams that are flying a little bit under the radar or just needs to be talked about that can contend on a national stage. Last year we covered the likes of Cincinnati, South Carolina, Dayton, Maryland and Notre Dame. We’ll take a look at different teams across the country as the season goes on, typically before or right after a marquee game and breakdown their strengths, weaknesses and what to expect moving forward. I plan on doing these every Monday as we head into March. We move on this year with Florida. You can read the rest of the Contender Series as it goes on here: 

Purdue

West Virginia

Texas Tech 

There may not be a team that has a higher ceiling and lower floor than Florida this season. We saw the Gators look like a top-5 team in the country early in the year when they beat Stanford and Gonzaga before blowing a lead against Duke in the title game of the PK80. After that they lost home games to Florida State and Loyola Chicago in which everyone then questioned just how good this team is. Since then they’ve gotten a neutral court win over Cincinnati and road wins over Missouri, Texas A&M and now Kentucky. The fact is, that’s just how this team is going to be when you rely on the 3-point shot and long jumpers as much as they do.

When Florida was competing at the PK80 they were scoring in the 100s and getting up and down the court, but the one positive since then is they’ve beaten Cincinnati and Kentucky in the 60s. That’s a huge plus going forward just from a mental standpoint that they can win those games. We’ll get into their defense later in the blog, but I actually want to start with something that Florida does incredibly well and arguably better than anyone else in the country.

Baseline out of bounds plays. Truthfully, it won them the game against Kentucky. They scored on nearly every BLOB and when you’re getting points out of these sets – often an open three – it’s a huge advantage at the college game. As Bilas pointed out during the broadcast of the Kentucky game, Mike White likes to start most BLOB’s in a similar set – whether it be a box, line or stagger – before he has 5-6 plays out of those sets. Going back and watching their film, a set that they really prefer is this one:

Florida BLOB

They set up in this staggered triangle set with Chiozza inbounding every time he’s on the floor. From this set there’s a bunch of different options, especially because Florida always puts Koulechov outside the 3-point line. Right off the bat I’ve seen Florida throw the ball out to Koulechov for a catch and release three if his guy is slumping in. They’ll throw it out to Koulechov for a reset on a halfcourt set. They’ll throw it in short side and run a handoff with Chiozza. They like to run numerous screen the screeners here though, which result in this sort of look:

In terms of offense there are three things that Florida wants to do. First, is get out in transition. They want to set the tempo and get up quick shots before the defense can get set. After that they want to drive and kick for spot up shooting. Finally, they’ll run a bunch of ball screens and what makes them interesting there is it’s almost a pick and pop scenario because they’ll use Koulechov (their four most of the time) to come set the ball screen for Chiozza. But, that’s the key for Florida. Chris Chiozza has turned himself into an All-SEC player and arguably the most important guard in the SEC for his respective team. Chiozza is currently leading the SEC in assist rate and is 29th in the country with a 35.2 assist rate. He’s also in the top-175 nationally in ORtg, just showing how important he is. Here’s a good example of what I’m talking about as to what makes Florida unique in the pick and roll set. Against Arkansas, you can see the guard on guard screen, this time it’s KeVaughn Allen coming up and setting the brush screen for Chiozza. What makes Chiozza so tough in this setting is his ability to a) get into a second gear rather quickly and b) his ability to finish in the paint over bigger defenders. When the brush screen happens, Arkansas is frozen on whether to switch or hedge – this is where the guard on guard screen works. The moment there’s that hesitation Chiozza is easily able to get into the lane.

This is a team though that wants to beat you from the 3-point line. They are actually one of the worst teams in the country at shooting the ball inside the arc. Part of that is due to a lot of long jumpers, the other part is they don’t have an interior presence. They are shooting just 47% from the 2-point line. Again, that’s more due to the quick shots off the dribble from 16 feet than anything else. They only get 43.8% of scoring from the 2-point variety, which is 308th in the country. This is where the biggest question marks for me land when it comes to Florida. What happens when the threes aren’t falling? This is how you lose to Loyola Chicago at home. However, let’s focus on the positive here. Florida ranks in the 96th percentile nationally on spot up shooting – scoring 1.115 points per possession out of those sets.

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Here’s what Florida wants to do and we saw it happen quite a bit against Kentucky as they scored at least 10 points out of a traditional spot up shooting set. You can see Chiozza pushes the tempo slightly to get the ball over the halfcourt, but not pressing. From there a high brush screen happens and then Chiozza gets to work. The plan is for Chiozza to break down the defense and get into the lane, forcing at least one defender to collapse. From there Chiozza either looks to get to the rim or the kick out. In this case it’s Vanderbilt who gets caught cheating in, leaving Hudson open on a kick pass. It’s nothing fancy, just Mike White taking advantage of what his team does well. This is where Chiozza is so important because he’s really the only one on this Florida team who can break people down off the dribble and execute the pass. Guys like Hudson, Allen, etc will break down off the dribble for their own look.

Florida grades out as a decent defensive team as they are now 50th on KenPom. What makes them strong defensively is their ability to switch almost every screen so the high ball screen against them doesn’t work as well. They do an excellent job protecting the 3-point line, giving up just the 66th most 3PA/FGA, however those looks tend to be open ones as teams shoot 37% against them. Chiozza typically will take the best ball handler on the opposing team and can be a real menace. We saw his ability to jump the pass against Missouri for the game-winner and he’s excellent at getting steals. It’s no surprise this is a team that struggles with defensive rebounding though – something that will seriously hurt them in the NCAA Tournament. Overall though, you have to assume Florida is now the favorite to win the SEC (tied with Auburn currently in the standings) after getting 3 key road wins. As I said in the beginning, this team has a high ceiling – they could easily make a Final Four and I wouldn’t bat an eye. The floor is also low. It just takes one bad shooting day and they are out on the first Thursday/Friday of the tournament.

Top-25

1. Villanova

2. Virginia

3. Duke

4. Kansas

5. Purdue

6. West Virginia

7. Xavier

8. Michigan State

9. Oklahoma

10. Cincinnati

11. Arizona

12. Texas Tech

13. Ohio State

14. Gonzaga

15. Florida

16. Auburn

17. Nevada

18. UNC

19. Clemson

20. St. Mary’s

21. Arizona State

22. Tennessee

23. Michigan

24. Seton Hall

25. Rhode Island