[NOTE: I wrote this prior to Thursday night's game between North Florida and Florida A&M, a game which North Florida won, 72-47]
The North Florida Ospreys are coming to Williams Arena this weekend, and it's interesting because as unfamiliar as most Gopher fans probably are with UNF there are a couple of easy points of comparison because UNF has losses to two teams the Gophers have already beaten in Memphis and Florida State. While Minnesota beat both squads by nine, USF fell to Memphis by 15 and to FSU by 8, which tells you the Gophers should win this game. But you already knew that so let me look a little bit deeper at what you should expect to see on Saturday.
UNF comes into this game 2-4 with wins over Bethune-Cookman and something called Edward Waters which may or may not be related to Andre, and with additonal losses to Kansas State and Savannah State along with those mentioned above. Although that sounds like total crap, the Ospreys shouldn't be taken too lightly. Since gaining D-I status a few years ago they've steadily been on the rise from a 3-win team to a 16-16 team last season, and with four starters back they'll be a prime contender in the Atlantic Sun, especially with Belmont gone to the Ohio Valley. So I'd take them slightly lightly, but not completely lightly.
Really though North Florida, although an A-Sun contender, is a pretty awful team. Looking at kenpom they don't do anything particularly well. Their defensive rating is decent, but that's mostly bolstered by opponents shooting just 25% on 3's against them this year, which ranks 21st in the country. That being said, the three top opponents they've played (Florida State, K-State, and Memphis) are all terrible shooting teams and since they weren't particularly good defending the three last season and have the same coach and basically the same personnel I'm going to guess this is inflated by their opponents rather than some quantum shift in their defensive ability. [FAMU went 2-12, but they were under 30% coming in so, again, who knows] They are also a slightly above average 3-point shooting team. Wow. This is some exciting stuff.
They do, however, have some interesting players at least I promise. Parker Smith, which is the most mormon-y name I've ever heard (note: I have no idea if this guy is mormon) leads the team at 17.0 ppg. He doesn't get very rebound-y or assist-y or defense-y, but that's ok because he is a flat our straight up scorer. He mainly shoots 3-pointers (48 of his 67 attempts this year are from behind the arc) and converts them at an impressive rate. He's hitting at 56% this year after shooting 41% last season. He's hit at least four three-pointers in five of the team's six games this season, and set a school record last year with 11 makes in one game against Mercer. He will shoot, and he will probably make a few. If No Flo is going to make a game of this it's probably because of this guy. [Smith went for 18 tonight on 4-12 three point shooting]
The other top scorer for the Ospreys is 6-6 power forward Travis Wallace (yes 6-6 PF), who is averaging 10.7 pts and 4.5 rebs per game this season, similar to his numbers last year. He generally stays around the basket (54% shooting this season) and is a pretty good shot blocker. In fact with Wallace (1.7 blks per game) and 6-7 freshman BaeBae Daniels (1.8 blks per game) the Ospreys actually bring something of an inside defensive presence to this game, something which should make things a little bit interesting for Mbakwe and Williams, if nothing else. [Wallace and Daniels combined for one blocked shot tonight, and Wallace scored 12]
The last guy I'll mention on UNF is their point guard, 5-11 senior with a sweet name Will Wilson, who leads the A-Sun in assists this season with 6.2 per game. What makes him so interesting is he's accumulated those assists while not being able to score. At all. His points per game totals in his four college seasons are: 0.9-1.0-1.8-2.8 (this year). His highest shooting percentage in a season is 36% (28% this year), and he's only attempted 26 three-pointers in his career (and made a respectable 9). Prior to this season (he's 7-8) he had hit fewer than half his FT attempts (16-40). Only six times in four years has he scored more than 5 points in a game and he has yet to crack the double figures. Ever. Even against Andre Waters' brother's school when he lit them up for 12 assists he went 0-3 from the field to finish with a goose egg. He's scored a grand total of 128 points in his college career. Rodney Williams will probably break that for the season in this game (he has 113). I am completely fascinated by this guy. Did he score in high school? Who would win between him and Ed Cota in a game of HORSE? Not since Morgan State's Reggie Holmes have I been this excited about an opposing player, but for the complete opposite reason. This is gonna be great! [Wilson attempted one shot tonight - he missed - and scored 1 point on 1-2 free throw shooting]
Minnesota 83, North Florida 57
Thoughts on the Twins' big Denard Span trade and other things the Twins should do coming soon.