The Final Four games were totally lacking in anything resembling excitement. But there’s good news on the way. For tonight’s game, the efficiency model predicts 62.9 points for Florida and it predicts 62.9 points for UCLA. So maybe we’ll cap this wacky event with some late-game drama, because the matchup couldn’t be any more even. UCLA’s slight advantage on D is offset by Florida’s advantage on O.
Let’s get to the particulars (national rank listed)…
UCLA O Fla D AdjEff 24 8 eFG% 24 17 TO% 229 87 OR% 49 101 FTRate 96 43
When you get this far, it’s hard to find weaknesses. UCLA has balance, with every player except the point guards sporting offensive ratings better than 100.
Jordan Farmar’s shot selection has been maligned in this space before, and a prime example was given against LSU. He took a couple of ill-advised 3s, but they went in. When that’s happening and the Bruins manage to get over 40% of possible offensive rebounds (they got 44.1% against LSU), the opposing defense is in trouble.
Farmar’s not a horrible shooter (48.9% eFG), and to be fair, his accuracy has risen slightly as his health has improved. But he gets the least bang for his buck on shot attempts among UCLA regulars, except for his back-up Darren Collison, and Farmar takes a whopping 30% of the team’s shots when he plays. His three biggest FGA output games have been UCLA losses. He had only nine shot attempts against LSU, but eight were with at least 13 seconds on the shot clock, so it’s not like we’re talking desperation heaves here. He’s not afraid to launch with a little encouragement, and while he is good enough to burn you on occasion, he is less efficient that his teammates.
It shouldn’t go unnoticed that a healthy Lorenzo Mata, statistically the team’s best offensive rebounder, makes UCLA a better offensive rebounding team. Mata got 17 minutes against LSU, his most in eight games since returning from a knee injury, and rewarded Ben Howland with eight boards, three offensive.
Fla O UCLA D AdjEff 6 3 eFG% 3 34 TO% 148 88 OR% 81 50 FTRate 20 73
We’re all well aware of UCLA’s defense. Florida’s offense is very effective as well. I’d like to focus on Corey Brewer, who started the season 16 of 67 (23.9%) on 3s and has gone 24 of 50 (48.0%) since. Along with Lee Humphrey (45.8%) and Taurean Green (39.6%), Florida has three solid, nearly spectacular, long-ball threats to go with the two future-NBA big men. So double-team at your own peril, Ben Howland. We know Howland isn’t going to double with a guard, and he may still double Joakim Noah at selective times in the low post, leaving the somewhat more offensively challenged Al Horford.
George Mason got a nice gift in the beginning of the semifinal game with Florida when Noah decided to jack up a few 15-18 foot jump shots. Eventually, he cut that out and Florida’s offense rolled. UCLA is 11th best at preventing 3-pointers, so Horford and Noah will have to be more involved down low than they were against GMU (18 points, .88 PPWS, only 5 FTAs, and 7 TOs), because the Gators won’t make 12 3s, and probably won’t get close to that total. The max has been 10 against the Bruins this season, and seven since Pac-10 play began. 23 is the most attempts they have allowed, and just 19 since conference play started.
What we have here is a game among equals that don’t have many obvious weaknesses, especially defensively. So it’s a game that should be close. Most have it pegged for a low-scoring contest, but keep in mind, it’s just as likely to be played in the low 70s as the low 50s.
It looks like Noah must have a nice game for Florida to be efficient offensively since we can expect the Gators to take – and make – fewer 3s that they are used to. Brewer is the wild card, because he is the Gators only true inside/outside threat. Howland has the resources to make Noah work, especially with the emergence of Mata.
For UCLA, another big game from Mbah a Moute would be nice. Afflalo vs. Brewer, assuming the matchup works out that way, will probably cancel each other out in ugly fashion when both are on the floor. Farmar will take his share of shots, and in this game he may need to. Florida is 4th in the nation in 2-point FG% defense. So what Farmar does with his 12 to 15 FGAs is crucial.
It deserves to be mentioned that these two teams are now tops in expected winning percentage. I suppose any two teams from the top ten that ended up in the final game would have risen to the top, but it goes to show you that there’s a decent case that these are the two best teams in the country right now. The winner will be one of the weaker champions in recent years, but nonetheless deserving of the title this season.
Predictions are stupid, but I’ll call it 63 possessions, UCLA 61-57.