Monday, January 28, 2008

Gators maul the Commodores

I must confess, I had serious doubts about Florida's basketball team's ability to beat a good team. They certainly proved me wrong, and that in spades.

Florida obliterated Vanderbilt in a game that demonstrated how a good offensive team doesn't have to play defense at all to win. Florida took a page from Vanderbilt's book and ran the Commodores off the basketball court early in the first half. Vanderbilt missed at least ten layups in the game, and even though a couple of them were tough, there is just no excuse. Not only that, the Commodores played lousy defense that wouldn't have stopped a high school team.

But the Gators deserve credit for taking advantage of Vandy's early struggles and just completely burying them in a barrage of hot shooting. Florida cooled off considerably in the second half, but were still much the best team yesterday. Here's a look a the box:

Now, let's go to the blogs. Let's let Orange and Blue Hue start on the the Gator side:

It’s time to remove the qualifiers. This is a VERY good team which has the firepower to beat any team in the conference. Nick Calathes is the leading contender for SEC freshman of the year honors and should be first-team All-SEC. Marreese Speights has arrived. Three games in a row he’s shown us an aggressive, powerful presence in the low post. The switch has been flipped. Big Mo is now arguably the best big man in the SEC.
I think he is correct. The Gators are capable of beating anyone in the conference, and even though this wasn't Vandy's best, you have to admire the maturity and execution of their young basketball team. Their defense is highly suspect, in my opinion, but they run the offense beautifully, and many times wound up with layups by running the Commodores off screen after screen. Combine that with the savvy and outstanding court awareness of Nick Calathes, and you get a beat down of the 14th-ranked 'Dores.

Mlmintampa at Alligator Army doesn't seem to recognize his own team:
Who were those guys out there? I saw players wearing white jerseys, then I saw the team make a 23-0 run and I seriously doubted that Speights, Werner, Calathes, Lucas, and Hodge were on the floor. It was a run reminiscent of older teams who knew how to destroy people.
Heh. I was wondering the same thing. Very impressive.

For the Commodore side, we have Save the Shield first. Philipvu94 says that he didn't see the game, but now he sees the 'Dores and the SEC in a bit of a different light:

But man, it’s clear that our OOC record that made us look like the best team in the SEC, right up there with Tennessee, was really flattering us. In reality, here’s how I see the SEC:

Serious Final Four contender: Tennessee

Mediocre-to-good; might land a 5-to-8 seed with a strong February: Florida, Kentucky, Mississippi, State, Vanderbilt*

Low-mediocre: Arkansas, Georgia

Flat-out terrible: Alabama, Auburn, Carolina, LSU

I'm reluctant to agree with the idea that the Gamecocks are terrible -- they certainly are more capable than I previously thought, but their record is poor. Then again, so is Kentucky's.

Bobby O'Shea at Vanderbilt Sports Line says it's not time to panic ... yet:
As Aaron wrote in the comments section for the Florida Preview, no one who watched today's game can be happy with the Commodores performance. It's not just that we lost the game, it's that we were never really in it. Let's give credit where credit is due: Florida is a very talented team that played one of, if not their best game of the season. The fact that Vanderbilt opened up the game 2-16 from the field and allowed Florida to go on a 23-0 run didn't help matters either. During the first 12 minutes, it honestly appeared as if there was a lid over the basket. We must have missed 6 or 7 shots around the basket early, and of AJ's 6 missed from the floor (he was 2-8), all of them were within 3 feet of the basket.
He's right. Vanderbilt played very badly, and did a lot of self-inflicted damage. I don't mean to belittle the Gators effort, though. I'm not at all convinced anything but the final score would have been different if this was the Vanderbilt of late December. With all that said, the Commodores definitely do need a win now. They have been hit hard lately, losing 3 out of the last 4 games, and things don't get any easier when they travel to Ole Miss on Wednesday.

For the Gates, they have almost a week off before they take on the Razorbacks in Fayetteville. Both those games are highly interesting to SEC basketball fans.