|This year's game is about much more than a trophy or title.|
Saying that Jacksonville isn’t known for its college basketball scene is an understatement. Although Jax has hosted NCAA Tournament games and put a team in the national championship game in the past, FOOTBALL dominates the First Coast.
That all changes this Saturday.
Jacksonville University’s men basketball game versus the University of North Florida this weekend won’t be the first time the two squads have met. However, it may be the first time the game has really meant something.
JU has held sole reign over college basketball in this part of state as long as your grandfather can remember. The team has had its fair share of successes over the years, which include a National Championship game loss to UCLA in 1970. UNF, the new kid on the block, hasn’t ever done much more than putting players on the court.
The Ospreys have only recorded two winning campaigns since the program’s founding in 1992. Recently though, things have changed.
Coach Matthew Driscoll, in his third season at UNF, has brought in a whole new mentality and more wins than the Ospreys are used to. Last year UNF emerged from irrelevance to beat JU in the conference tournament and fall one game short of earning their first ever NCAA Tournament bid.
Now, for the first time…the two schools are even.
Both know how to win. Both are legitimate tournament contenders. Both are at the top of the Atlantic Sun Conference.
However, only one team can leave with the W on Saturday. Let’s take a look at how the game should break down.
These teams play two very different styles of basketball.
The Dolphins are lights out on offense. JU regularly records a FG % over .500, and has five players currently averaging over 10 points a game. The team knows how to spread the ball around and score from any spot or position on the court. Plus, guard Keith McDougald is a three-point ace shooting .407 % from beyond the arc.
The Ospreys like to build their offense off of their defense. UNF prides themselves on fighting for tough boards, and uses aggressive ball control to create options for their guards. Forward Matt Sauey has nine block on the season, and Travis Wallace and Andy Diaz average over five rebounds a game.
This year’s starting five for the Dolphins may be one of the top groups in program history…but that’s about all this team has. There is a clear drop off in production when the starters are not on the floor, and it has continually hurt JU late in games this season. The Dolphins will need their bench to step up if they want to keep pace with the Ospreys, who spread minutes equally across their roster from top to bottom.
One of UNF’s biggest strengths this season has historically been one of their biggest weaknesses versus JU. Wallace’s 22 offensive rebounds highlights a total of 91 on the season for the season for the Ospreys that is well above normal. UNF has long been abysmal at recovering their own shots, and has recently lost several close games to their cross-town rivals due to lack of offensive boards late in the game. Whoever wins the rebounding battle towards the end will win the game!
KEYS TO THE GAME
Jacksonville may not have much depth, but they have experience. The Dolphins know how to win late in a game, and have dominated UNF in the final minutes the last few years. If the game comes down to the wire, JU will know what they need to do to make the right fouls or hit the game winning shot.
UNF loves their outside shooting,…but they haven’t been very successful with it this season Parker Smith and Jerron Granberry have dipped from their three-point efficiency from last season. The Ospreys will have to do one of two things to overcome the Dolphins stifling defensive play down low.
1. Get the ball to their guards outside the arc, and create opportunities from there.
2. Find a way to finally overcome JU’s inside defense.
P.S. (The first option is a whole lot more likely.
This game won’t look like any match-up between these two teams that you’ve ever seen before. It should be close for a while, but UNF’s depth will wear into JU in the second half. The Dolphins will use their experience to cut into the lead, but it will be too little too late.
Final Score: UNF 66 – JU 57