If Noah Locke Sinks Shots, Florida Swims
It's not a coincidence.
The sample size now is too great. We have seen enough. The biggest wildcard of Florida basketball is shooting guard Noah Locke.
When Locke plays well, so does Florida. When he doesn't? It's usually a tough night for coach Mike White's group.
Only twice this season, in the 84-82 nail-biter against LSU and the Missouri game, has Florida lost when Locke shoots better than 50 percent from or better from three. Besides those two contests, he has reached that mark nine times this year, all victories for the orange and blue.
But when he doesn't?
Florida typically doesn't just lose when Locke's hand is cooler, the Gators lose in ugly fashion.
In UF's last three losses, the Baltimore native has shot under 40 percent. Two of those, Ole Miss and Baylor, were double-digit losses. The other defeat came against Mississippi State, a game in which Florida choke away a 16-point lead at home.
Locke's worst performance of the year came against Florida State in just the second game of the season. UF was thoroughly defeated up and down the court at home that day, and lost 63-51.
He went 0-7 from beyond the arc that night, and 1-11 from the floor overall.
The 43 percent three-point shooter for the year's numbers have been all over the place this season to average out to a solid mark. The numbers show that when he hits shots, everything tends to work for Florida.
His floor spacing allows everybody else to work. Forwards Kerry Blackshear Jr. and Omar Payne have much more space to operate when his shots are falling and defenses are keying in on Locke. It also makes point guard Andrew Nembhard's job much easier as well.
When a defense has to face-guard a shooter like it does against a hot Locke, he essentially makes the game four-on-four on that end of the floor. It also creates defensive confusion.
UF constantly picks Locke open to get him shots. Early in a game, the other team feels him out to see if this will be a dangerous day for him. But as the game wears on, if his shots continue to fall, any breathing room the opposing team allows off a switch can be enough.
It forces whoever Florida is playing to be extra communicative on that end. They have to constantly know if they are, or aren't switching on defense to blanket Locke. Any miscommunication at all, and you're either leaving him wide open or giving somebody else an easy bucket in the paint since Florida usually picks off of a big man.
When Locke doesn't hit threes, he is the ultimate let down for the Gators. When he is on, it makes Florida extremely tough to beat.