All day long, the Gophers were asked about experiencing the relief of getting out of the Big Ten.
And all of them expressed positivity to that end. With all those grind-it-out, defensive, physical, board-pounding battles, who could blame them.
Oh – P.S. they’re playing 3-seed Florida on Sunday, a team that has all of those characteristics, and could be just as dangerous.
It would be foolish to underestimate this squad.
“You can’t let them dictate it,” Andre Hollins said. “They have really good guards. They’re a solid team. They don’t do anything spectacular. They’re a good solid team.”
Nothing spectacular? Oh but they do. The Gators are the only team in college basketball, in fact, that is ranked in both the top-5 adjusted offensive and defensive Ken Pomeroy rankings.
They can play fast – but more importantly, they can play slow and patient, dictating a pace that the Gophers saw plenty in the Big Ten and didn’t do so well with.
Florida is not the Big Ten, but considering the Gators’ tendencies – 3-point shooting, strong and mixed defense and the ability to control the tempo – Minnesota might have its work cut out for it.
Some notes on today’s media access:
*Andre Hollins on his matchup with Florida point guard Scottie Wilbekin: “I played against one of the best defensive guards in Aaron Craft (who many have compared Wilbekin to). Just going up against him, you have to be a little bit more decisive with your moves and how you’re going to attack because they’re really good defenders, they move their feet well, just to be a little bit more secure with the ball.
*Smith coached against Florida coach Billy Donovan for 10 years when the former was with Kentucky in the SEC. But Donovan’s style has changed significantly since then, morphing into more of a defensive powerhouse from the run-and-gun style the Gators coach often played in Smith’s day. “We felt like we needed to tweak some things, from last year that we needed to get better,” Donovan said. “We really looked to break down our defense and find areas that we could get better. And to our guys’ credit, they have been really committed in that area all year long.”
*Told about his players’ comments about getting out of the Big Ten, and asking if he agreed, Smith looked out into the media and shrugged. “Whatever they say,” he said, eliciting a wave of chuckles from reporters. “They’re always right. They have never been wrong. I’m the only one wrong. I can see their point. We have kind of built this team to be that way, to be an up-tempo, running team and pressing tea, Unfortunately, when you play against teams that have as good or better players, you can’t really force your will on them like you can on some teams that wan t to play the style you want to play. So if that helps them play better and motivates them to play better, yes, they’re right.”
*The Gophers played a zone defensively the most they have all year against UCLA, and very effectively. The Florida matchup could force Minnesota to go back to being a man-to-man team again, though, or at least make them give a better mix of defensive looks. “They’re a pretty good 3-point shooting team,” Smith said. “And UCLA didn’t make, you know – they were off on their 3-point shooting last night. So I don’t think you can give Florida a steady diet of anything defensively. We’ve got to change it up, try to keep them off-balance as best we can.”
*If the bats show up tomorrow, Florida might have the edge. While the bat flew low over their practice on Wednesday, interrupting both the Gophers – Andre Hollins expressed his intense dislike for the situation – the Gators just laughed about it. “I kept focused,” Scottie Wilbekin said, smiling. Patric Young said Donovan promised to pay for medical bills if any player was bitten.
*Donovan has developed a relationship with current Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague after Teague took two assistants from him. Teague hired both Anthony Grant and Shaka Smart as head coaches at VCU, and enjoyed a lot of success with both. Donovan described the phone call in which Teague asked about Grant. “I told Norwood, I said, ‘I’m just telling you right now, Norwood, it will be the biggest coup of VCU basketball that you could possibly get of hiring anybody that you could hire out there nationally that would go to VCU.’ And then Anthony obviously went down there and did a great job.”