Florida Gulf Coast vs Florida Pick NCABB – March 29th

The NCAA Tournament is a great reminder of the “have’s” and “have-nots.”  Tonight four or five of the most storied programs in college basketball history take the floor, five hall-of-fame, or soon-to-be hall-of-famers will patrol the sidelines; legendary names like Coach K, Rick Pitino and Tom Izzo, budding legends like Billy Donovan and Bill Self, and all bring teams loaded with NBA talent.

And all anyone wants to talk about is Florida Gulf Coast.

And who can blame them?  The Eagles of FGCU have captured the fancy of the nation with their loose style of play and high-flying alley-oops and tonight the fairy tale continues to write itself as the first #15 seed ever to advance to the Sweet Sixteen gets to take on in-state “rival” Florida, whom wouldn’t even consent to a SCRIMMAGE against FGCU before the season.

It doesn’t get any better than tonight if you love college basketball, and frankly if you love sports.  But can the storybook ride continue, or does it all end tonight??  Let’s dig into the most anticipated matchup of the weekend.

#15 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles vs. #3 Florida Gators -13

The Florida Gators, despite their #3 seed opened the tourney as the Vegas favorite to win the South and with the third lowest odds to win the entire tournament.  I was critical of their ability to win the tourney because of their habit of gagging up late game situations, however, the caveat would be if you NEVER play a close game, then it matters a lot less.  With their third straight game against a double-digit seed, looking at the line, Vegas believes they will again go untested and unchallenged.

I love the story.  I really do.  But taking emotion out of the situation, it is really hard to see Florida losing tonight.  But I can see it being an interesting game.  FGCU is at least as athletic in most positions and Florida lacks a dominant post game to exploit one of the two obvious matchup weaknesses the Eagles possess.  The thing that concerns me from an FGCU standpoint is the ability of Brett Comer to handle the incredible quickness and pressure of the Gator’s backcourt.  Scottie Wilbiken is Aaron Craft without the hype – dude just wears out point guards defensively.

The downside for Florida – if there is a glimmer of upset hope – is their tendency to take bad shots and get a little loose offensively.  Kenny Boynton has that 3 of 17 game lurking in him, and their lack of an inside scoring presence could make them very jump shot dependent.  We’ve seen what FGCU does when teams go cold shooting and allow them to get out in transition.

Overall, I think Florida wins tonight.  They are quick and adept at penetrating and kicking out for good looks.  Hey are comfortable playing up-tempo, unlike Georgetown, and they defend as well as any team in the country on a per-possession basis, including Louisville.

I’d love to be wrong, but I doubt I will be.  I will take the huge point pile allotted to FGCU and hope that the team that slew Georgetown, Iowa State and Miami shows up as opposed to the team that lost to Maine and Lipscomb…

Free Pick:  Florida Gulf Coast Eagles +13

Chris Scheeren / Author