March 4, 2012; Gainesville, FL, USA; Florida Gators forward/center Patric Young (4) dunks during the second half against the Kentucky Wildcats at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Kentucky won 74-59. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
We take a look at the Florida Gators as they enter the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament.
While the 7th seeded Gators certainly made it interesting down the stretch, finishing 6-6 in their last twelve, a decent showing in the SEC Tournament solidified Florida's position in the big dance.
Biggest Victory: 82-64 win over Florida State
As the Noles continue to excel this season, that dominant victory over a top twenty ranked opponent is going a long way with the voters.
Ugliest Loss: Georgia 76, Florida 62
Florida has had some clunkers this season, but the loss to the dreadful Bulldogs still stings a bit. Florida played disinterested basketball and the loss began Florida's late season swoon of three straight losses.
Who are the Gators?
Florida is led by a trio of guards that combine for a deadly three point barrage. The Gators love the arc, firing 819 three balls this season (2nd in the nation). After starting out the season as one of the nation's best at booking the three, Florida's gone cold in the latter portion of the season. It's led to closer than expected games (like the 2nd round win over Alabama) and crushing defeats (the last two losses to Kentucky).
Kenny Boynton is Florida's leading scorer, averaging 16.3 points per game. Freshman Bradley Beal could very well be a one-and-done player with the Gators, as his skillset definitely makes him attractive to the Pros. He's averaging 14.6 pts, 6.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
Erving Walker has had an up and down Senior season with Florida. After being benched, Walker continues to try to adjust to being a PG in a SG's body. He's averaging 12.1 pts per game and 4.7 assists per game.
Patrick Young is Florida's man in the middle. Young seems to have the talent to dominate but thus far it just hasn't translated. He was splitting time with Will Yeguete before Yeguete went down with an injury. Young himself has been a bit banged up.
Junior forward/center Erik Murphy has been coming on at the end of the season, as highlighted by his scintillating 24 point performance in the SEC Tournament Semi-Final against Kentucky.
Why They'll Go Far in the NCAA Tournament
If the Gators can shoot the three like they were earlier in the season, Florida can compete with anyone. After a dreadful three point performance against Alabama in the 2nd round of the SEC Tournament, Florida shot much better in the Semi-Final against Kentucky (11-of-22, 50%). It kept the Gators in the game and had the top ranked Wildcats sweating it out.
Why the Won't
Florida just doesn't have the interior to battle on the boards with the stronger inside teams. If Florida can't hit the consistent three and has to rely on their inside game, it may be a short stay in the tourney.
First Round Opponent: Who are the Virginia Cavaliers?
The 10th seeded Virginia Cavaliers (22-9) made it into the field of 68 despite a 3-11 record against teams in the RPI Top 50. Virginia's biggest win of the season came against Michigan on Nov. 28th.
Virginia may not have the offensive firepower to stay with the balanced Gators, as they only have two players who average in double figures in Senior Forward Mike Scott and Sophomore Guard Joe Harris. Scott averages an impressive 18.1 points per game and has been on fire down the stretch, scoring 28 against Florida State, 35 against Maryland and 23 in the Cavs' second round tournament loss to NC State.
If the Gators want to advance, Scott will need to be contained.
How far can the Gators Go?
First Round Flop (14 votes)
Second Round Exit (9 votes)
Sweet Sixteen (12 votes)
Elite Eight (7 votes)
Final Four (7 votes)
Championship Game (3 votes)
Cut Down the Nets, Baby! (5 votes)
57 total votes