The first ticket will be punched to the Final Four on Saturday afternoon in the West Region, where the Florida Gators will look to pull off the upset of the Louisville Cardinals.
We knew that UF was going to be one of the most dangerous teams here in the West Region, and that has absolutely remained the case. A tremendous defensive effort and a solid shooting night got the team to the Elite 8 with a win over the Marquette Golden Eagles, and now, there are just three steps separating the Gators from a National Championship again for Head Coach Billy Donovan. Bradley Beal is coming off of a great game in which he scored 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting. Ironically, Erik Murphy and Patric Young didn’t end up putting together big time efforts even though we thought that they were going to have to be big against Marquette’s Jae Crowder. Though this is a team that prides itself in running up and down the court and sharpshooting, it has been the defense that has gotten the job done. The 58 points that the Golden Eagles put up was the best offensive effort that any team has mustered against the SEC reps here in the dance. The Norfolk State Spartans and Virginia Cavaliers only combined to score 95 points in the first week of the dance.
Last year, it was the Connecticut Huskies that won the Big East Tournament. They went all the way through the NCAA Tournament as well and ended up winning the whole enchilada. Is that going to be what Louisville does this year? These Cardinals are a heck of a lot different than that UConn team was. They are doing the job with defense and with just a relentless form of play. There has only been one game since the start of the Big East Tournament that have featured the Cards scoring even 70 points. The defense, just like that of Florida, has really come up strong in recent weeks. After holding the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Cincinnati Bearcats down to just 94 combined points in the last two games of the Big East Tournament, there has only been an average of 54.0 points per game allowed here in the three rounds of the dance. It always seems like it is a case of “next man up” for Louisville, as virtually every one of the starters has stepped up and had a double digit scoring game in the dance.
The Final Word: In the end, we just think that Florida is a more intense team and a team that it has to have a bit more in the tank having played a much easier schedule. It had to take a heck of a lot to get the Michigan State Spartans out of this tournament, and we think that it is going to wear on the Cards in this matchup. Go with the Gators to get to yet another Final Four.
Florida Gators vs. Louisville Cardinals Pick: Florida Gators -1.5
is a staff writer living in the Orlando area. He has covered NFL, MLB, college football, CFL, AFL, NBA, college basketball, NASCAR, golf, tennis, and the NHL for a number of various outlets in his career, and he has been published by a number of different media outlets, including the Orlando Sentinel and the Wall Street Journal.