A new season is upon us and I’ve been singularly focused on something very troubling the past few weeks: the Wahlberger family opened a hamburger chain simply because “burger” appears in their last name. There’s no passion, there’s no joy, it’s a business predicated on convenience (and no one seems to care!). If your last name is Primavera, it doesn’t necessarily mean your life’s mission is to own and run a restaurant that only serves pasta. In the olden days, your last name was often your station in life — for instance, the last name Smith was derived from people that literally worked as blacksmiths. If your last name is Farmer, guess what, your ancestors probably spent a lot of time with animal shit on their boots. Your surname is Johnson? You best believe your forefathers had girthy manhoods that impressed the gathering at the local bathhouse. You get the idea.
What the Wahlbergers have done is reversed the process. They didn’t adopt a last name according to their occupation, they undertook an occupation according to their last name. Madness! If anything should concerned you during these “troubled times,” it should be the Wahlbergs complete afront to how society has functioned. They are leading societal progress backwards. Will someone think of the children?
Anyway, let’s discuss the Birds of Trey™, North Florida, Dayton’s opponent to open the season tomorrow night.
North Florida lives and dies by the three, it’s really that simple. Last year nearly 45% of the Ospreys’ shot attempts came from behind the three-point line (which was *only* the 39th highest rate in the nation, that stat floored me). The year before that, 41% of UNF’s shots were attempted from behind the arc. It’s an offense built on taking the first good look from the perimeter, North Florida will not make you work on defense. This is excellent news for a team like Dayton which seems to very much be a work in progress on the defensive end.
The Ospreys were picked to finish fourth in the nine-team Atlantic Sun. Although on paper North Florida is a young team, there’s not a single senior on the roster, they do return a wealth of production and experience. UNF features six players that averaged at least eleven points a game in Atlantic Sun competition from last season. While Lipscomb appears to the class of the conference, I’d speculate that North Florida will be in the mix come late February.
Every frenetic offense needs someone to steer the ship, a player to make sure his teammate’s are getting the ball in the right situation. For North Florida, that man is Ivan Gandia-Rosa, a junior coming off a 13.8 ppg/6.2 assist season. Gandia-Rosa may look like he just stepped out of the caravan in a pair of basketball shorts, but don’t let looks deceive you. He stepped up and played some of his best games against the Ospreys’ toughest out-of-conference opponents last year — Michigan State, Michigan and Florida to name a few. Bottom line, the Sweater Centre won’t be an intimidating force that overwhelms him. Gandia-Rosa is a streaky perimeter shooter but damn near automatic from the charity stripe (89.1%). UD will want the ball out of his hands as much as possible.
Junior Noah Horchler is North Florida’s other standout player. Named the ASUN’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, Horchler can pick-and-pop and is the Ospreys’ top rebounder. A 6’8″ forward, Horchler has the ability to take his man away from the basket, which oftentimes would open up the lane for slashing and post-ups. However, in the case of North Florida, it just leads to five guys standing around the three-point line wondering who is going to get a shot up first.
Junior guard JT Escobar will be one of those guys looking to get shots off. Now in his second year at North Florida after transferring from Ole Miss, Escobar is the Ospreys’ top perimeter shooter. He connected on 42% of his three-point attempts a season ago and is absolutely someone UD must close out on quickly. Escobar played a season at a prep school, sat out a year after leaving Ole Miss, and received his bachelor’s degree in May, so I’m thinking he is closer to 30 than 20 at this point. He is extremely seasoned.
Don’t expect to see junior forward Wajid Aminu camped out around the arc. He is one of the few players on the UNF roster that is perimeter adverse. Aminu is the Ospreys’ man in the paint, a solid rebounder capable of scoring from fifteen feet in. He was the ASUN’s Freshman of the Year and received the school’s Spirit Award — you can’t put a price on that type of affability.
Garrett Sams, North Florida’s other starting wing, is a white guy. This was shocking to me. I assumed a guy named Garrett Sams would own at least six Kangol hats, but I was wrong, dead wrong (although he is a white guy from Tennessee, so you can’t automatically rule it out). Sams has the type of game that could give UD fits. He has the ability to score from anywhere on the floor, can put the ball on the floor and rebounds at a very solid clip. Sams is crafty, a player who has learned to “use his body” to draw fouls. He is clearly the best candidate to have a breakout game against Dayton.
If you recall Dayton’s 86-71 victory over North Florida three seasons ago, and why wouldn’t you, it’s a pretty good blueprint for how things are likely to transpire on Wednesday night. The Ospreys were were substantially outrebounded, scored a scant amount of points in the paint, barely got to the line and had to work for every open look they got (sidenote: they still knocked down 44% of their three-point attempts). Now, don’t’ get me wrong, that Dayton team was clearly superior to the team taking the floor tomorrow. The 2015-16 Flyers had Big Steve in the middle clogging the lane up and Kyle Davis and company surely played a stingier brand of defense than their year’s edition is likely capable of.
That being said, UNF is not going to change their approach. They are going to fire away, fire away and fire away. Dayton will undoubtedly enjoy a rebounding advantage and get the easier buckets. The obvious issue is Dayton’s perimeter defense, limiting UNF’s good looks from three will be of paramount importance. North Florida’s roster is actually a little bit deeper this time around, which is nice for them, but their defense remains deplorable. Although UD’s defense is nothing to crow about, the lack of second-chance opportunities severely limits the Ospreys’ chances in this one. UNF will once again have to shoot around 45% from deep to keep this one close. I think it’ll be a tighter contest this time around but the result remains the same, Dayton wins 81-75.
Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o' D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.