Continuing its journey in the 2017 NCAA Tournament as the No. 4 seed in the East Region, Florida Gators basketball will look to advance to the Elite Eight for its fifth straight appearance in the Big Dance when it takes on the No. 8 seed Wisconsin Badgers. Here’s what you need to know and how you can watch Gators-Badgers.
Event: 2017 NCAA Tournament — East Region, Sweet 16
Location: Madison Square Garden — New York, New York [Capacity: 19,763]
Time: 9:59 p.m. EST
TV: TBS (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
|(4) Florida Gators||(8) Wisconsin Badgers|
|Head Coach||Mike White||Greg Gard|
1. Interior minded: For all the difficulties presented by Wisconsin, nothing will be more integral to Florida’s success — or lack thereof — than its ability to score and defend in the paint. Over 51 percent of the Badgers’ points come from inside the arc; while that is not a staggering figure, couple it with the fact that they are the ninth-best defensive team in that same area and you have a squad built to take advantage of its length. With the Gators down a man in the frontcourt, extra pressure will be placed on their big men to come through, particularly on the defensive end. Plenty of teams have difficulty locking down Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ — who combine to average 27.6 points and 15.7 rebounds per game — but if Florida wants to advance to the Elite Eight, it will have no choice but to do just that.
2. Take ’em and make ’em: The Gators have shown a penchant this season for jacking up three-point shots, often times plenty of ill-advised ones. With the Badgers’ interior advantage, Florida must find ways to get open beyond the arc and be efficient while doing so. Florida only scores 30 percent of its points from long range, but Wisconson ranks 304th nationally in defending the triple. That should provide plenty of opportunities for the Gators to get going — particularly sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen and graduate transfer G Canyon Barry, both currently in a slump during the NCAA Tournament.
3. Run, run, run: The best way for Florida to keep Wisconsin on its heels is by using its incredible athleticism and speed, which has been praised throughout the season and even more so in the postseason. The Gators may occasionally get sloppy in transition — hey there, senior point guard Kasey Hill — but that frenetic pace is tough to match by an opponent, particularly one with as much size as the Badgers. UF proved to be too much athletically for Virginia, and it has the same opportunity against a slightly weaker — but not by much — defensive opponent in Wisconsin.
Spread: Florida -1 | O/U: 131
It’s not unfair to say the Gators have been disrespected throughout the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Oddsmakers have done it again by opening this game at -1.5 with sharps all over Wisconsin and the public taking Florida and the reduced number. That line has barely moved, alternating between -1 and -2 over the last week, which is telling with a lot of monetary support for Wisconsin.
If picking this game a week ago, the Badgers would be the easy call as they have the length and shot-making ability that the Gators struggled with late in the season. But it’s not a week ago. It’s the Sweet 16, and Florida is 8-1 all-time in this round historically with seven straight victories with the Elite Eight on the line.
UF is more athletic and running on all cylinders. Wisconsin deserves credit for its tremendous upset of Villanova, but that never should have been a Round of 32 matchup. This is a proper Sweet 16 game, and I expect the Gators to come out on top with the total likely falling under.
2016-17 records: ATS picks 6-3 | O/U picks 7-2
» Out for season: C John Egbunu (Florida, knee)
» Florida is 2-2 all-time vs. Wisconsin with the programs splitting a pair of home-and-home series in the past. The programs have never before met in postseason play.
» The Gators are 41-15 in 18 NCAA Tournament appearances. Florida is 8-1 all-time in the Sweet 16 with five straight trips to the regional semifinals in as many tournaments and seven straight victories when playing in the round. UF improved to 10-3 in second-round games and 13-5 in first-round games this event.
» UF is 2-4 against AP Top 25 teams this season and 3-11 against such opponents under White. Florida is 44-11 against unranked opponents over the last two seasons.
» Not counting Senior Night, the Gators have only used two starting lineups all season with four of their five players starting every game to this point. However, nine different players have led UF in scoring through 34 games.
» Six of the 14 players on Florida’s roster were either not on the team or did not step on the court during the 2015-16 season.
» The Gators are 40-10 under White when scoring 70 points or more and 32-6 when giving up 69 points or fewer.
» Florida’s nine-game winning streak was its longest since winning 30 in a row during the 2013-14 campaign.
» Only two teams (Auburn, Vanderbilt) reached or eclipsed its season scoring average during regulation against UF. In the game against the Tigers, the Gators set a program scoring mark with 114 points.