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 Final Four for the second time in four years when it takes on the No. 7 seed South Carolina Gamecocks. Here’s what you need to know and how you can watch Gators-Gamecocks.
Event: 2017 NCAA Tournament — East Region, Elite Eight
Location: Madison Square Garden — New York, New York [Capacity: 19,763]
Time: 2:20 p.m. EST
TV: TBS (Verne Lundquist, Jim Spanarkel, Allie LaForce)
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
|(4) Florida Gators||(7) South Carolina Gamecocks|
|Head Coach||Mike White||Frank Martin|
1. Transition matters: Florida’s greatest strength is its speed and quickness, which it must display on both ends of the court throughout the game but especially when in transition. One of the reasons South Carolina has been so successful in the tournament is not only its ability to play lock down defense and force turnovers but convert those additional possessions into quick points. Florida has done much of the same throughout the season and must continue to do so on Sunday while also being sure to get back on defense when it inevitably coughs the ball up. Winning the transition and fastbreak battle would go a long way to a Gators victory, particularly because the Gamecocks are 235th nationally in efficiency from beyond the arc.
2. Get some balanced scoring for once: This tournament has been a rough one in terms of balance for Florida’s offense. The frontcourt has been the one dominating for the most part with junior forward Devin Robinson being the Gators’ most consistent scorer to date. When he got a couple early fouls against Wisconsin, though, sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen — the team’s leading scorer — caught fire and set a program NCAA Tournament record with a career-high 35 points. The problem? He was the only double-digit scorer for Florida in the game. The best teams — particularly ones that move on to the Final Four — are ones that have balance offensively. That means Robinson and Allen both getting on the scoreboard early and often, not one or the other doing it. It also means at least one roleplayer having a decent showing, whether that’s a point guard, graduate transfer G Canyon Barry or senior F Justin Leon.
3. Don’t get frustrated: If the Gators learned one lesson from their Sweet 16 game it was that they are capable of bouncing back from even the roughest of starts or lowest of moments. The famous saying of basketball being a “game of runs” was no more true than when Florida and Wisconsin squared off on Friday. That experience, coupled with one of the nation’s most difficult schedules, should provide UF with the mental fortitude to bounce back from whatever down moments it will likely experience against a tough yet familiar opponent. Florida has prepared for this opportunity all season and now must capitalize on all the lessons it has learned from a difficult campaign.
Spread: Florida -3 | O/U: 137
It’s rare for teams to meet three times in a single season and even rarer for two SEC programs to meet in the NCAA Tournament. Yet here we are with Florida and South Carolina, which have both impressed and depressed at times during the 2016-17 season. The Gators and Gamecocks have ramped up their defensive intensity now that we’re in the postseason and done so with impressive results — thrilling runs to the Elite Eight. Now they meet under the bright lights inside the World’s Most Famous Arena with a trip to the Final Four on the line — something UF has experienced five times before while USC has never sniffed.
The three-point spread for Florida is deserved entering this one despite the dominant way South Carolina has shut down opponents. The difference in this game comes on the offensive end where the four-seed brings in the 25th most efficient offense in the nation compared to the 115th for the seven-seed.
Yes, UF and USC split their regular-season matchups with each team winning its home game; what cannot be forgotten is the first meeting in which the Gators were unable to drain a three-pointer for the first time in 850 consecutive games spanning 25 years dating back to Jan. 11, 1992. Not only that, Florida did not hit a single outside shot the entire game with every single point either coming in the paint or at the charity stripe … and it only lost by four as it held South Carolina to just 15 field goals.
That changed in the second meeting when the Gators went 9-for-19 from beyond the arc and earned a decisive 13-point victory. The Gamecocks are playing better defense now than at any point in the season and have an additional full night’s sleep on their side, so I ultimately expect this game to fall somewhere between the two results. Florida has a greater number of players who can catch fire — despite only one double-digit scorer in the Sweet 16 game — and has been humbled with a tight overtime victory while South Carolina is likely feeling itself after beating Duke and routing Baylor. Give me the Gators to cover the spread and the total squeaking in under.
2016-17 records: ATS picks 6-3-1 | O/U picks 7-3
» Out for season: C John Egbunu (Florida, knee)
» Florida is 44-24 all-time against South Carolina but 1-2 under White. The Gators and Gamecocks split their regular-season series with each team winning its home game.
» Sunday’s game is UF’s first meeting with an SEC opponent in NCAA Tournament history.
» The Gators are 42-15 in 18 NCAA Tournament appearances. Florida is 5-3 all-time in the Elite Eight with five consecutive trips in as many tournament appearances. UF improved to 9-1 in Sweet 16 games with eight straight victories when playing in the round, as well as 10-3 in second-round games and 13-5 in first-round games.
» UF is 3-4 against AP Top 25 teams this season and 4-11 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 35 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 41-10 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.