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(3) Florida vs. (14) Northwestern State
Posted By HOOPSWORLD On March 17, 2013 @ 5:31 pm In NCAA | No Comments
(3) Florida Gators
The Gators (26-7, 14-4) were the SEC’s best during the regular season. However, that doesn’t hold the same kind of weight that it usually does. The Gators really came out of the gates storming, winning 18 of their first 20 contests. They may have peaked early, though, as they went 3-3 over their last six in the regular season, falling to unranked foes Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky. That prompted Gators head coach Billy Donovan to question his team’s fire, which they will have to regain in order to advance as deep as they hope to in the tournament. The Gators are a team without a star or a go-to player. Instead they boast a balanced attack, with four double-digit scorers in the 10-12 point range in Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy, Mike Rosario and Patric Young. Coach Donovan uses an eight-man rotation that plays the intense kind of defense that his teams have grown to be known for. They allow just 53 points a night on 37 percent shooting from the field and 29 percent from deep. They also force 14 turnovers nightly. The Gators’ defense is capable of winning them a lot of games, but the team has to get back to playing like they did early in the year and someone must emerge as a go-to player late in games when they need a bucket. The lack of that has killed them in close games this season.
(14) Northwestern State Demons
The Southland Conference looked like the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack’s to lose, but the Demons’ up tempo style of play proved to be too much for the defensive oriented Lumberjacks to contain. The Demons (23-8, 15-3) are back in the tournament for the first time since 2006 and just the third time in school history. During each trip they’ve managed to pick up a win and this year’s team certainly has the talent to vie for an upset. Demons head coach Mike McConathy plays at least 10 guys a night, typically subbing five guys in at a time. He brings his starters off of the bench, a unique approach that has worked very well this season. The Demons have serious talent and athleticism on the front line. Their big men can score from all over the floor, with DeQuan Hicks’ 14 points leading the way. Their guards, Shamir Davis and Jalan West, run the offense but will score themselves when teams focus in on the bigs. The Demons have the nation’s most top offense, scoring 82 a night. The Demons 0-1 against the RPI top 50, falling by four to Oklahoma. Overall they finished the year with a top 80 RPI and a strength of schedule just inside the top 200. Higher seeds who have trouble scoring are hoping to avoid the Demons at all costs, cause they can score against anyone. Where they get in trouble is when they turn it over in excess and don’t hit the boards like they should.
HOOPSWORLD’s Pick: Northwestern State. The Demons are going to utilize their overall depth and great full court pressure to upset the Gators.
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