UF MEN'S BASKETBALL
Gators are confident shooting in the Georgia Dome
Published: Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 7:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 9:02 p.m.
Florida will play in a domed stadium for the first time this season Friday when it faces either Missouri or Texas A&M in the Southeastern Conference tournament.
But UF players don’t seem concerned about the unique setting of the SEC quarterfinal matchup. The cavernous Georgia Dome in Atlanta creates a different shooting background than normal college or even pro basketball arenas.
“I don't think there's that much of a difference,” Florida senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin said. “If there is, it's in your head.”
The No. 1 Gators (29-2) have won 23 straight and come into SEC tournament play on a torrid shooting stretch. Florida made 9 of 15 3-point attempts in its 84-65 win over Kentucky last Saturday and is shooting 47.8 percent from 3-point range (33 of 69) over its last three games.
Overall, Florida finished the regular season third in the SEC in 3-point shooting percentage (35.9 percent). Florida sophomore guard Michael Frazier II leads the SEC in 3-point percentage (44.1 percent) and is second in the league in 3-pointers made (97).
“The dome is a little bit different than a normal setting,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said.
Florida sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith said he will approach shooting the basketball in the dome the same way he has during the course of the season. Finney-Smith made 3 of 4 3-point attempts on Saturday against Kentucky and is shooting 31.5 percent from beyond the arc this season.
“Basketball is basketball,” Finney-Smith said. “I try not to pay attention to all the hype about the dome, how big it is. As long as the court and all that is the same, the ball can go through the net. I’m not worried about it.”
But Florida fans witnessed the effect that dome settings could have on the Gators last season. At AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Florida shot just 45.5 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from 3-point range in its 62-50 Sweet 16 win over Florida Gulf Coast University. Shooting numbers were even worse in the Elite Eight, when the Gators shot 41.1 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3-point range in a loss to Michigan.
“Shots go in sometimes, sometimes they don't,” Wilbekin said. “Last year in Dallas, a lot of the shots in warm-ups went down and the first game they went down, but against Michigan they just weren't falling.”
The NCAA announced a plan last summer to phase out domed Sweet 16 sites beginning in 2017. The consensus seems to be more traditional basketball arenas improve the quality of shooting, which improves the quality of basketball. More than likely, Florida’s NCAA tournament path will run through a pair of NBA arenas (The Amway Center in Orlando and the FedEx Forum in Memphis) before a possible return to AT&T Stadium in Arlington for the Final Four.
The last time a Final Four wasn’t played in a dome setting was 1996 when Kentucky beat Syracuse in East Rutherford, N.J., at Continental Airlines Arena. With the popularity of the Final Four, Donovan doesn’t see the day that a Final Four will ever go back to a traditional arena.
“I think most coaches will probably tell you, ‘Listen, let’s play in an arena,’” Donovan said. “But that’s probably not going to happen. It’s going to probably be played in some kind of dome setting.”
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.