Tonight’s matchup is a contrast in styles with Florida Gulf Coast and it’s high flying up tempo offense versus the nation’s second best defense with the Florida Gators. However in following Florida very closely this season; teams that like to get up and down are a better match up for the Gators. Billy Donovan’s squad likes to press and has guards that can knock down the three point shot. The size advantage will favor Florida having seen the two teams yesterday in Cowboys stadium. The Eagles do have a great point guard in Comer who leads the tournament at 12 assists per game. The Gators will run a couple of guys at him in their man defense staring with Scottie Wilbekin, but also Kenny Boynton and Casey Prather.
Florida Gulf Coast:
The Eagles have averaged 80 points in their two NCAA wins and earned their “Dunk City” nickname by scoring 22 percent of their points on slams. In the regular season Brett Comer averaged 5.4 assists per game, but in tournament play is at 12 per game, including 14 against SDSU. Senior guard Sherwood Brown (15.6 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 38 percent from 3) was the Atlantic Sun Player of the Year, while sophomore guard Bernard Thompson was the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. Thompson is averaging 23 points, while shooting 44 percent from the floor and 46 percent from distance in the tournament. Brown’s average is up to 20.5 on 50 percent from the floor and 46 percent from the 3-point line in NCAA play. Junior forward Chase Fieler has 59 dunks on the season. The Eagles do have losses this season to Maine, Stetson and two versus Lipscomb.
The Gators have benefitted from a strong offensive attack this season, scoring 72 ppg on greater than 48 percent shooting from the field, but they have reached elite status thanks mostly to their suffocating defense which yields just 53.8 ppg on 37.8 percent shooting, both figures ranking in the top-five nationally. UF is heavily reliant on the 3-pointer, draining 8.4 treys per contest at a 38.2 percent clip. The Gators have a balanced attack from its starting five, as Murphy, Rosario, Kenny Boynton, Patric Young and Wilbekin all net between 9.2 and 12.8 ppg, with Young and Wilbekin being named to the SEC's All-Defensive Team.
This and That…
Florida, one of four programs to reach the Sweet 16 the past three seasons, is 5-1 in regional semifinals under Donovan.
Donovan is one of only four men (Dean Smith, Joe B. Hall and Bobby Knight) to appear in a Final Four as a player and win an NCAA title as a coach.
Florida Gulf Coast joined the Atlantic Sun in 2007, and this season marked only its second year of eligibility for Division I postseason play.
The Gators will look to turn the Eagles over with the press and create easy baskets as they have done the last two games. Keep an eye on the 2nd half where FGCU dominated its last two opponents averaging over 50 points in each half of the tournament. I think the X-Factor tonight could be Patric Young and his ability to sweep the glass. There will be lots of shots taken and Comer likes to get to the lane. He needs to stay out of foul trouble and pick his spots. If he gets into double digit rebounds, I think Florida will win easily. The Eagles like to get their shots quick and spread the floor, but how good are they on defense? I would expect Florida’s balance attack to give them problems, especially Eric Murphy. Florida is the better team but will they perform better and advance to the elite eight for the third season in a row? I say yes.
Watch SEC Tonight at 7pm as I go one on one with Billy Donovan at the Gator Locker Room.