Last year the Florida Gators had one of the best offenses in the nation (3rd), scoring a strength adjusted 1.21 points per possession (PPP), which was the second most under Billy Donovan. But defensively they struggled. They were 71st nationally, and 8th in conference-only games. They ended up getting knocked out of the Elite 8 because they couldn't get stops against Louisville. Only nine opponents all season gave up more per possession to the Cardinals, and that includes the early season scrubs.
This year the Gators once again have the 3rd ranked offense nationally. They've cut back on some of the 3-point attempts, and are getting more done inside. But the real difference – and the key to their dominant start – is their defense.
The Gators are 7-0. They haven't trailed a game in the second half. They haven't trailed a game at halftime. They haven't even trailed a game after the first five minutes of the first half.
In the last two games they held Marquette to 0.82 PPP – the Eagles second worst game in past five seasons – and they held Florida State to 0.75 PPP, which is their worst outing since their 41 point debacle against Harvard last year, a game which was played in a ballroom. They've held six of seven opponents to their worst offensive game of the year.
They're getting it done by shutting down the interior. Gator opponents have made just 36.2% of their 2s. The best defense in the nation last year limited opponents to 39.6%. And the impressive part is how well they're mixing defenses. They press, they play man, they play a variety of zones, and they seem to be effective in all of them. This versatility allows Donovan to change whenever he feels opponents are figuring things out, and it also makes it nearly impossible to draw up plays during time outs. It's just too hard to predict how their defense is going to be set.
Now the Gators have nine days off before they travel to Arizona. Not only is this a road game, but it's against a team which has the No. 13 offense in the nation. And the Wildcats are best at what the Gators stop – making 2s. Arizona is 4th nationally in 2-pt%. If the Gators can shut down a great offense on the road then they might legitimately be the favorite to cut down the nets in March.