The f word

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College basketball beat writers throughout the Southeastern Conference often like to help each other out.

So when one writer from Kentucky asked me to ask questions about how Florida is adapting to playing as a finesse team, it gave me an idea of the national perception of the Gators.

Namely, a perception of a team that relies on 3-pointers and treats defense like an ugly stepchild.

Is Florida a finesse team? The Gators ranks eighth in the conference in rebounding margin, last in blocked shots and 10th in defensive field goal percentage, numbers that suggest the team still lacks a physical makeup.

But most UF players I talked with Monday scoffed at the notion of being labeled as finesse.

“I think we’ve gotten better pounding the ball inside, getting the ball to Alex (Tyus), getting the ball to Dan (Werner), getting the ball to Kenny (Kadji),” Florida sophomore guard Nick Calathes said. “I think we obviously shoot 3-(pointers) really well. Sometimes we settle for 3s. I wouldn’t say we’re a finesse team, I’d say we’re more a high iq team. We pass the ball really well and we get open shots.”

Said Florida sophomore forward Chandler Parsons: “I wouldn’t call us a finesse team. I’d call us an undersized team … we have some guys that who play hard and go to work and it doesn’t matter how small you are if you go out there and play with passion and energy.”

Said Florida junior forward Dan Werner: “Usually when you hear finesse you think of guys that aren’t tough, physical and stuff. I think on the defensive end we can be tough, physical. On offense, we might have to play finesse with the type of players we have and the way we pass. It might be considered finesse but on the defensive end you don’t want to be called that.”

I think Florida made some strides playing more physical against South Carolina, going to the free throw line 40 times by drawing enough fouls to get into the bonus before the 10-minute mark of both halves. But Florida will need to continue to muscle up as the battles of February extend into March.

Otherwise, they could face the dreaded n-word. NIT.