There are 32 games on Thursday and Friday, one of the most exciting 48-hour segments on the sports calendar.
We won’t be able to get individual previews up for every game, but we’ll cherry pick some of the more compelling matchups during the tournament’s “second” round.
In this post, we preview the 7-10 matchup in the West Region between Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators and the 10th-seeded Virginia Cavaliers, led by one of the best players in America that too few people know about.
Florida-Virginia Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #7 Florida v #10 Virginia in West Region
- Florida-Virginia Date: Friday, March 16th
- Florida-Virginia Tip Time: 2:10 ET
- Florida-Virginia Location: Omaha
- Florida-Virginia TV: TNT
- Florida-Virginia Announcers: Marv Albert, Steve Kerr, and Craig Sager
- Florida-Virginia Point Spread: Florida -3.5
- Tickets: Florida-Virginia Tickets
- Tickets: All Omaha Sessions
- Tickets: West Regional Tickets in Phoenix
Florida-Virginia Analysis and Prediction
Just to prove the committee has a sense of humor, they decided to pair up two of the teams I have labeled as overrated this season.
When the Gators have the ball, it will be strength on strength, as the Cavaliers rank fifth in adjusted defensive efficiency while Florida ranks third on offense. The Gators are extremely reliant on the three-point shot, but Virginia has routinely shut down opponents from beyond the arc. Led by Mike Scott, the Hoos also control the defensive glass and limit second chance points.
On the other end of the floor, look for UVA to pound it inside to Scott, who probably should have been named ACC Player of the Year. The Cavaliers shoot much better inside the arc than they do outside of it, and they are unlikely to beat themselves with turnovers.
ook for a close, slow-paced game in Omaha, but I’ll give the slight nod to the Gators based on the fact that they have more playmakers on offense.
Predicted Winner: Florida
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 Gators 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.
Virginia Cavaliers Team Capsule
- Conference: ACC
- Record: 22-9 (9-7 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 4-6
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 2-6
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Michigan, North Carolina State
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Duke, Florida State (2), North Carolina (2), North Carolina State
- Player to Watch: Mike Scott (6’8” F, Sr.) – 18.1 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 56.2 FG%
Virginia Bottoms Line:
The Cavaliers haven’t beaten a tournament lock since November, yet somehow they largely managed to avoid the bubble conversation down the stretch.
Mike Scott had a really strong argument for ACC Player of the Year, and his efficiency numbers are magnificent across the board. He shoots well, rebounds at a high rate on both ends of the floor, and does a nice job of drawing fouls and getting to the stripe.
If Virginia is going to make noise in March, their defense will be the reason. The Cavaliers rank in the Top 10 in defensive efficiency and are particularly proficient at cleaning the defensive glass and defending the three-point line.
Virginia has struggled down the stretch, and they desperately need someone other than Scott to become a consistent threat on offense. That said, their slow pace of play could certainly frustrate opponents, and it should also allow them to keep the game close.
Related: Jump to our West Region Bracket Breakdown.
See our other individual game previews and predictions:
- South Region: #4 Indiana v #13 New Mexico State
- South Region: #5 Wichita State v #12 VCU
- South Region: #6 UNLV v #11 Colorado
- South Region: #7 Notre Dame v #10 Xavier
- South Region: #8 Iowa State v #9 Connecticut
- West Region: #4 Louisville v #13 Davidson
- West Region: #5 New Mexico v #12 Long Beach State
- West Region: #6 Murray State v #11 Colorado State
- West Region: #7 Florida v #10 Virginia
- West Region: #8 Memphis v #9 Saint Louis
- East Region: #4 Wisconsin v #13 Montana
- East Region: #5 Vanderbilt v #12 Harvard
- East Region: #6 Cincinnati v #11 Texas
- East Region: #7 Gonzaga v #10 West Virginia
- East Region: #8 Kansas State v #9 Southern Miss
- Midwest Region: #3 Georgetown v #14 Belmont
- Midwest Region: #4 Michigan v #13 Ohio
- Midwest Region: #5 Temple v #12 Cal/USF
- Midwest Region: #6 San Diego State v #11 NC State
- Midwest Region: #7 St. Mary’s v #10 Purdue
- Midwest Region: #8 Creighton v #9 Alabama