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OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. -- The Gators haven't lost a game in the NCAA Tournament in five seasons. That's pretty good. Of course, UF hasn't played a NCAA Tournament game in three seasons. That's not good.
So, what needs to happen for UF to defeat BYU in the first round on Thursday? Here's a list. We'll try to get to five but then add some filler if needed.
1. Defend the three!
This first one's a biggie. BYU can bomb from beyond the arc. The Cougars are shooting 41.9 percent from three-point range. That's pretty darn good. In fact, that's tied for the second best three-point field goal percentage in the nation. Cornell, the Ivy League champ, enters the NCAA Tournament with a 43.4 field goal percentage from three-point range.
BYU has three main threats from the perimeter: Jimmer Fredette (21.7 ppg), Emery Jackson (12.6 ppg) and Jonathan Tavernari (10.3 ppg). Fredette leads the team in three-point shooting percentage, connecting on three-pointers 44.8 percent of the time. He's a slasher but has also made 73 three-pointers this season. By comparison Florida's Kenny Boynton Jr. leads the Gators with 67 three-point field goals, but at a much success rate (28.5 percent).
Jackson leads BYU with 80 three pointers (43 shooting percentage). All told, BYU has FOUR perimeter shooters with better three-pointer field goal shooting percentages than UF's most consistent three-pointer shooter, forward Chandler Parsons (36.7 percent from three).
Meanwhile, Florida (21-12) heads to Oklahoma City, Okla., ranked 75th nationally in field goal percentage defense, allowing opponents a three-point bucket 32.1 percent of the time. Boynton, Walker and likely Ray Shipman will combine to defend Fredette and Jackson. Limiting these players is key to a UF victory. BYU is shot 33 percent from three-point range in its five losses.
Here are the three-point field-goal percentages in BYU's five losses this season: Utah State 71, BYU 61 (33.3 percent); New Mexico 76, BYU 72 (42.1 percent); UNLV 88, BYU 74 (25.9 percent); New Mexico 83, BYU 81 (43.5 percent); UNLV 70, BYU 66 (37.5 percent). Fredette
2. Own the boards!
Here's another area where Florida can ulimately limit the Cougars number of three-point shots. BYU's leading rebounder, 6-8 forward Noah Hartsock, is averaging 5.1 rebounds per game. Florida's Alex Tyus, Chandler Parsons and Vernon Macklin are averaging more rebounds per game than Hartsock. BYU doesn't miss as many shots as Florida, but when they do on Thursday, Florida must get to the ball first.
3. Don't be satisfied!
Florida coach Billy Donovan spoke passionately about this topic on Monday. His message to the team this week is to not be satisfied with simply making the NCAA Tournament. That's not the goal. The goal is to win games.
Florida is forcing an average of 15.3 turnovers during wins and 11 turnovers during losses. For a team like UF, every turnover makes a difference.
5. Use the bench, Billy!
In Florida's 21 wins, Ray Shipman and Erik Murphy have averaged more minutes off the bench than in UF's 12 losses.