There are 16 “Round of 32” games on Saturday and Sunday as the most exciting weekend of the sports calendar continues. As we always do every March here at MSF, we try to cover you with previews, informed and reasoned predictions, and pertinent viewing info as soon as we can get it posted.
In this post, we preview the West Region matchup between #7 Florida and surprise Round of 32 entrant Norfolk State, who knocked off Missouri in one of the great upsets in NCAA Tournament history.
Florida-Norfolk State Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #7 Florida v #15 Norfolk State in West Region
- Florida-Norfolk State Date: Sunday, 3/18
- Florida-Norfolk State Tip Time: 6:10
- Florida-Norfolk State Location: Omaha
- Florida-Norfolk State TV: TNT
- Florida-Norfolk State Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, and Craig Sager
- Florida-Norfolk State Point Spread: TBA
- Tickets: Florida-Norfolk State Tickets
- Tickets: West Regional Tickets in Phoenix
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Florida-Norfolk State Analysis and Prediction
In a tournament that has featured relatively few upsets so far, Norfolk State more than made up for it by knocking off Missouri on Friday. The Spartans, who came into the game shooting just 31 percent from three-point range, hit 10-of-19 from long range, and big man Kyle O’Quinn went off for 26 points and 14 rebounds. Earlier in Omaha, Florida blew out Virginia by 26 points despite making just 4-of-23 from beyond the arc. Freshman Bradley Beal led the way with 14 points and 11 rebounds, while two other Gators scored in double figures.
As you might expect, this game appears to be a mismatch on paper. The Gators ranked third in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency and boast the eighth-ranked effective field goal percentage and the 14th-ranked turnover rate. Norfolk State ranks 193rd or lower in three of the four factors on defense, but a three-point defense ranked 21st in the country will serve them well against the Gators, who take over 44 percent of their shots from beyond the arc. For the season, they have made just under 39 percent from downtown. Florida also hits nearly 52 percent inside the arc, but thanks to a high block rate, the Spartans are tough defensively there as well.
Keep an eye on the offensive glass, as the Gators rank just outside of the Top 100 in offensive rebounding percentage, while Norfolk State ranks 219th in defensive rebounding percentage. The matchup with Patric Young and Kyle O’Quinn inside should be pivotal.
On the other end of the floor, Norfolk State ranks outside of the Top 200 in offensive efficiency. Their greatest strength is a high 43.7 free throw rate, but Florida ranks within the Top 50 in terms of keeping their opponents off the stripe.
The Gators have struggled to defend the three-point line, which wouldn’t have been a huge deal before the Spartans caught fire from long range on Friday. Florida can’t allow guys like Pendarvis Williams and Chris McEachin to heat up once again.
With O’Quinn in the post, it’s no surprise that the Spartans have shot well from two-point range, and once again, the matchup between he and Young will go a long way toward determining Norfolk State’s ability to pull off another upset.
With talented guards like Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, and Bradley Beal, it would appear the Gators have a clear advantage on the offensive end, but many said the same thing when looking at Missouri’s stable of guards, and look what happened there.
Florida is very beatable when their three-pointers aren’t falling, so that will be the key to this game in addition to the Young-O’Quinn matchup. While I believe that Norfolk State will run out of magic against Florida on Sunday, the basketball fan in me will be pulling for the Cinderella story.
Predicted Winner: Florida
Norfolk State Spartans Team Capsule
- Conference: MEAC
- Record: 25-9 (13-3 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 9-1
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 1-2
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: LIU Brooklyn
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Marquette (2)
- Player to Watch: Kyle O’Quinn (6’10” C, Sr.) – 15.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.7 bpg, 58.3 FG%
Norfolk State Bottoms Line:
I’m not 100 percent sure, but the Spartans are probably the first team to ever make the NCAA Tournament after losing to Elizabeth City State. From a statistical standpoint, Norfolk State ranks in the Top 25 in free throw rate, holds its opponents to a low effective field goal percentage, and shoots very well from two-point range. Most of their other numbers aren’t particularly impressive, and their overall efficiency numbers both rank outside of the Top 150.
Three Spartans score in double figures, but the focal points on both offense and defense is big man Kyle O’Quinn. He’s an efficiency marvel with high rankings in effective field goal percentage, offensive and defensive rebounding percentages, block percentage, and free throw rate. Most small conference teams don’t boast such a talented big man, and he has the ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor. Chris McEachin and Pendarvis Williams both score at least 11.8 points per game, and neither one is shy about hoisting shots from long range. Despite playing just 18.6 minutes per game, Jamel Fuentes leads the team in assists and has actually attempted more shots from the free throw line than the field.
Florida Gators Team Capsule
- Conference: SEC
- Record: 23-10 (10- 6 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 4-6
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 4-6
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Alabama (2), Florida State, Vanderbilt
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Kentucky (3), Ohio State, Syracuse, Vanderbilt
- Player to Watch: Bradley Beal (6’3” G, Fr.) – 14.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.4 spg
Florida Bottoms Line:
The Gators started the season as a Final Four contender in the eyes of some analysts, but they struggled to beat quality teams throughout the season. Five Florida players score in double figures, led by Kenny Boynton with 16.3 points on 42.7 percent shooting from long range.
Freshman Bradley Beal has been solid as well, and in addition to his scoring ability, he does a nice job on the defensive glass. The team also has a veteran point guard in Erving Walker, who scores 12.1 points per game and leads the Gators in assists. On a guard-heavy roster, the big men don’t get many touches, but Erik Murphy and Patric Young both average at least 10 points, with Young shooting over 60 percent from the field and Murphy content to shoot from the perimeter. The late-season loss of forward Will Yeguette hurts their frontcourt depth as well, particularly because of his high rebounding rates.
In all, the Gators rank third in offensive efficiency, because they shoot 39.0 percent from deep and have a low turnover rate. However, their reliance on the three-point shot has come back to bite them in multiple games this season, because when they aren’t hitting from long range, Florida doesn’t really have a plan B. They also struggle on the defensive end, which could ultimately be their undoing in the tournament.
Related: Jump to our West Region Bracket Breakdown
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