The No. 6 seed Florida Gators (20-12) take on the No. 11 seed St. Bonaventure Bonnies (26-7) in the First Round of the East Region. The game will be played at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Thursday, March 15. Tip is estimated for 9:57 p.m. E.T.
Preview: Florida may not be what it was under Billy Donovan, but Mike White has done a very good job in his first three seasons taking over for a two-time national champion. The Gators finished third in what was the best SEC men’s basketball conference in years.
Junior guard Jalen Hudson leads the way for the Gators, with 15.3 points per game. He is a 41-percent three point shooter on the season.
The Gators have three more players averaging double-digit points: senior guard Egor Koulechov (13.6 points per game), junior guard KeVaughn Allen (11.3), and senior guard Chris Chiozza (11.2). The balanced scoring backcourt makes the Gators very hard to defend.
— Gators Men’s Basketball (@GatorsMBK) March 14, 2018
The Gators will take on 11-seed St. Bonaventure, winner of tonight’s First Four game against UCLA. Courtney Stockard hit a number of huge shots for the team from Olean, New York, leading the way with 26 points in the 65-58 win.
Date: March 15
Time: ~ 9:57 p.m. ET
TV Channel: truTV
Location: Dallas, TX
Announcers: Spero Dedes, Steve Smith, Len Elmore, Ros Gold-Onwude
Opening Betting Line: TBA
This is Florida’s 21st NCAA Tournament appearance, and the 2nd straight under Mike White. The third-year Gators coach missed the tournament in his first season in Gainesville, but led the team to the Elite Eight last season.
It was the 10th run to the Elite Eight in program history, with five coming since 2011. Florida has been a very consistent team come March, even after the back-to-back titles under Donovan.
The team has reached five Final Fours, most recently in 2014. It won the national title in 2006 and 2007, and was runner-up in 2000.
St. Bonaventure is in its seventh NCAA Tournament, and second of this decade. The Bonnies were last in the Big Dance in 2012, when they lost to Florida State 66-63 as a 14-seed. The program has three Sweet 16s under its belt, and made the 1970 Final Four.
Prediction: As far as Florida teams go, this group of Gators have flown under the radar. The team had pretty mixed results against top competition this season.
Overall, UF s 9-7 against Tournament teams, with some huge wins (Gonzaga, Cincinnati, Kentucky twice), and some questionable losses (Loyola-Chicago). The Gators also lost to a host of lower-rung SEC opponents, including Ole Miss, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, and Georgia twice.
St. Bonaventure did not win the A-10 title—Davidson was a bid-stealer, beating URI in the final—but did enough during the regular season with wins at Buffalo, at Syracuse, and season splits vs. Davidson and Rhode Island during the year. The First Four win over UCLA shows that the Bonnies deserve to be in the final 64.
The Bonnies have an awesome senior backcourt duo of Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley. Adams averages 19.8 points and 5.4 assists per contest, and is a true gunner from deep, hitting over 45-percent of his threes. Mobley averages 18.5 points and five rebounds per night.
The Bonnies have been legit all year, and could have the backcourt to match the Gators. With some momentum under their belt, I’ll take St. Bonaventure to upset Florida and advance to face the Texas Tech-Stephen F. Austin winner.