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Xavier v. Florida: PKI preview, matchups, keys to the game

It has been eight months, but Xavier and Florida are meeting once again.

Syndication: Gator Sports Alan Youngblood/Gainesville Sun / USA TODAY NETWORK

It’s Thanksgiving. Spoilers, I guess, if you didn’t know already. There is football, of all types, on all day, there’s plenty of food and, in a pleasing addition to Thanksgiving, Xavier basketball. If your house is anything like ours, the din may make hearing announcers difficult, but who wants to hear Dickey Simpkins anyway?

Florida hasn’t been off to a great start this season either. They are also 3-1 this season, having beaten Stony Brook, Kennesaw St, and a poor Florida St. The loss came to Florida Atlantic, who is both surprisingly good this season (75th in the KenPom), and not a team that Florida should lose to.

Team Fingerprint

Florida’s offense is decent thus far this season. Their strength has been ball security. The Gators thus far are 41st in the nation with a very good 15.5% turnover rate. They turn all that possession into some rather poor shooting numbers. As a team the Gators are at 35% behind the line, where they don’t shoot much at all, and only 48.3% inside it. From the line they are excellent.

Defensively Florida is a mixed bag. Offensive rebounds against them are essentially a non-event. They allow less than 20% of the misses against them to be recovered by the shooting team. They also block a ton of shots and are excellent at interior defense. The Gators don’t force many turnovers, instead focusing on shutting down shots and limiting three point attempts.


Starting matchups
Kyle Lofton Point Guard Souley Boum
Senior Class Senior
6'3", 188 Measurements 6'3", 175
9.8/3.8/3.8 Game line 14/3.8/3.8
46.9/50/83.3 Shooting line 55.2/61.5/84.2
After being one of the best points in the A10 for four years at St. Bonaventure, Lofton has transitioned smoothly to life on an SEC roster. He's incredibly stingy with ball security, a good distributor, and a solid defender. He's not a frequent shooter, but he's hitting half his threes so far on the season. He's also very reliable from the line.
Will Richard Shooting Guard Kyky Tandy
Sophomore Class Senior
6'4", 206 Measurements 6'2", 190
14/4.5/0 Game line 6.3/2/2
54.5/46.2/100 Shooting line 42.9/41.7/66.7
Richard is another transfer, this time from Belmont. He's a sniper who is also exceptional from the line. He profiled as a power forward at Belmont and still gets after the offensive glass at Florida. His usage rate is fairly low, but his efficiency has led to consistently solid scoring outputs.
Kowacie Reeves Small Forward Colby Jones
Sophomore Class Junior
6'6", 192 Measurements 6'6", 205
8.5/2.3/1 Game line 13.3/5/6.7
40.7/47.1/57.1 Shooting line 40/0/83.3
When Xavier played Florida in the NIT, I remember thinking that Reeves was a good freshman and I was glad he wouldn't be Xavier's problem going forward. Joke's on me! He's not getting a ton of minutes, but he has a 115 ORtg and cashing out from three. He never turns the ball over but has a little bit of a foul problem.
CJ Felder Power Forward Zach Freemantle
Senior Class Senior
6'7", 240 Measurements 6'9", 225
3.3/5.3/0 Game line 15.5/7.3/5
38.5/0/100 Shooting line 60.5/0/62.5
Felder's a big lad who transferred in from Boston College and has appeared a little bit in over his head at Florida. He's rebounding well by rate but not getting enough minutes to make it stick. His shooting numbers have been poor early and he's had some foul issues. He shot well from deep last year, but he's a career 29.7% shooter from deep.
Colin Castleton Center Jack Nunge
Senior Class Junior
6'11", 250 Measurements 7'0" 245
25.3/8.8/2.3 Game line 17/6.8/1.5
55.1/25/70.6 Shooting line 54.8/55.6/68
Family reunion as Jack Nunge gets to play with his son again! Jack held Castleton to 10/6/0 on 4-8 shooting in the NIT last year. Castleton has been on a tear since then, wrecking the four teams Florida has played in every aspect. He has crushed the glass, blocked a ton of shots, scored almost at will, and drawn more than 7 fouls per 40. He's rolling.


Florida has roughly average depth when it comes to bench minutes. Alex Fudge will be first off the bench. He’s a 6-9 sophomore who blocks shots well and is solid on the offensive glass. Myreon Jones plays as a backup guard. I’m sure he does something well, but it doesn’t show up in the stats. Trey Bonham will come off the bench looking to get his. His offensive rating is 80.4, though. Florida will rely on their starters and use their bench as sparingly as possible.

Three questions

-Can Xavier control the glass? Xavier has been fairly porous on the defensive glass this season and it probably cost them the game against Indiana. Florida has a few decent offensive rebounders, but none of them get big minutes to the extent that they're dominant in that regard. If the Muskies struggle on the glass today, it could be a season-long struggle.

-Who controls the paint? The Muskies are 308th in the nation in percentage of points scored from beyond the arc; they rely on two-point shots and free throws to rack up points. Unfortunately, Florida's defense is strong in both defending inside the arc and avoiding sending opponents to the line. Xavier will be the best team Florida has faced so far this year; it will be incumbent on Nunge and Freemantle to take the fight to the Gators in the paint.

-Can anyone shoot their way back in? Neither team shoots prolifically from deep; Florida is 333rd in three-point rate and Xavier is 351st. Additionally, both teams are stingy defensively, with Florida 82nd and Xavier 30th in defensive three-point rate. If someone stretches it out to a double-digit lead, it's going to take a lot of consecutive stops to work back to level.

Three keys

-Push Castleton out. Florida doesn't have a whole lot of volume scoring outside of their center. Their supporting players are efficient, but most of their high-volume guys have not been. He has dropped 25 a game because Florida does nothing but feed him in good spots on offense; X has to make him work before the catch or he'll eat all day.

-Make Florida go to their bench. The Gators are 156th in bench minutes and 5th in two-foul participation. Other than Alex Fudge - who gets there with an 83.2 ORtg - they don't have anyone who scores at all outside of the starting five. This is a good team, but it's very top heavy. They don't go to the bench very much because it's pretty much useless.

-Keep the ball hot. Florida does a good job of chasing teams off the arc and is stingy in two-point defense. Stagnant offense and attacking on the first side are recipes for offensive disaster today. The Muskies have to put Florida into rotation or they'll end up having a really tough time breaking the Gators down.