This past Sunday, the NCAA Tournament committee selected the sixty-eight teams that will compete in this year’s rendition of March Madness.
Four teams from Florida will make the run for the championship, those teams being the University of Florida, Florida State University, the University of Miami, and Florida Gulf Coast University. FGCU will represent the Atlantic Sun conference, following their winning of the conference championship.
Following a successful season, Florida State looks to redeem a disappointing second-round exit in 2012 at the hands of Cincinnati. Led by junior Xavier Rathan-Mayes, averaging 10.8 points and 3 rebounds per game, as a three seed, the Seminoles face South Florida foe Florida Gulf Coast on March 16 in Orlando.
ESPN basketball writer Eamonn Brennan said, “When FSU is flying up and down the floor, seizing mismatches and attacking the rim, as they were for most of the 2016-17 season, they’re one of the best teams in the country. But when they’re bad, they’re really bad.”
Brennan cites the inconsistency shown by the team, specifically away from home. As the Seminoles know, tournament games are played at neutral sites, so if they want to advance, they must play efficient basketball.
The University of Florida enjoyed a successful season, finishing with a 24-8 record and ranked seventeenth. Competing in the relatively weak Southeastern Conference (SEC), the Gators have much to prove if they are to be seen with relevance on the national scale. The Gators enter the tournament as a four seed, matching up against Eastern Tennessee State University in the opening round, which should be seen as an easy win.
Dropping games to fellow tournament teams Gonzaga, South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Duke, Florida State, and Kentucky shows that Florida is relatively unsuccessful in competitive games. Carrying the team with a high octane offense, the Gators look to control the pace of play and score from the perimeter.
Florida Gulf Coast is returning to the “big dance” for the second time in the past three years. Recalling the 2013 run to the Sweet Sixteen, FGCU, being the first and only fifteen seed to do so, was filled with high energy and spectacular dunks. Dubbed “Dunk City,” FGCU returns as one of the most athletic teams in the country,
Dana Caldwell of the Naples Daily News said, “FGCU (26-7), which has won seven straight is, by far, the ASUN’s (Atlantic Sun) most athletic and deep team. Probably of all-time. Those ‘great’ guards are 6-foot-2 junior point Brandon Goodwin (team-high 18.2 points per game), an electrifying transfer from UCF and the ASUN’s Newcomer of the Year; [sic] 6-2 sophomore combo guard Zach Johnson (11.8 ppg), a fantastic driver with the ability to light games up from behind the arc.”
The Eagles will seek to return to the Sweet Sixteen with athletic playmaking and three-point shooting.
Located in Coral Gables, the University of Miami presents an interesting opponent in the tournament. Plagued by inconsistency, the Hurricanes struggle to produce in high stakes games, as seen in their 78-53 loss to North Carolina on March 9. Despite this, UM is never a team to take lightly, as they are always capable of an upset. Duke found that out the hard way following a loss on Feb. 25.
Miami matches up against an underwhelming Michigan State squad, in which they should be seen as favorites, as an eight seed. Historically, Miami has not been a strong tournament team, oftentimes bowing out in the first or second round, but aim to prove critics wrong, as they would likely play top seeded Kansas.
Tournament play begins this week across the country.