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Virginia (22-9) vs. Florida (23-10)
Friday, March 16, 2:10 p.m. (ET)
The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: CenturyLink Center Omaha (17,301) -- Omaha, Nebraska. Television: TNT. NCAA Tournament Record: Virginia 22-16, Florida 29-12. Series Record: Virginia leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: Back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007, the Virginia Cavaliers take their chances against the Florida Gators when the two teams clash in the second round of the 74th annual event this afternoon at CenturyLink Center Omaha in Nebraska.
A 10th seed in the West Region this time around, Virginia has lost four of the last five NCAA Tournament games in which it has appeared, that lone victory coming against Albany, 84-57, in Columbus Ohio five years ago before bowing to Tennessee by three points, 77-74, in the following round.
This year head coach Tony Bennett guided the Cavaliers to a 22-9 record, the team's win total the most in the regular season since the 1982-83 campaign. However, Virginia enters this game having lost three of the last four contests, with the one victory coming in overtime against Maryland. The team was ushered out of the ACC Tournament by NC State last week, 67-64.
As for the Gators, a seventh seed, they've been brought back to reality since the start of February, the team losing a total of six times and bowing in four of the last five games overall. Following a three-game slide to close out the regular season, head coach Billy Donovan managed to guide his troops to a narrow 66-63 win in the SEC Tournament in New Orleans, but last Saturday were defeated by top-ranked Kentucky, 74-71.
The Gators, owners of a 29-12 record in the NCAA Tournament all-time, have produced a mark of 25-9 under the direction of head coach Billy Donovan during his tenure. The team won the national title in back-to-back seasons (2005-06 and 2006-07), defeating UCLA and Ohio State, respectively. Last year, the Gators made it to the Southeast Regional Final where they bowed to Butler in overtime, 74-71.
Florida, which is playing in Omaha for the first time in school history, lost the only previous encounter with the Cavaliers in the semifinals of the 1992 NIT in a 62-56 final. Virginia went on to take the title in the tournament that year.
The winner of this matchup will be back in action on Sunday versus the survivor of the Norfolk State/Missouri battle.
More than anything else, the Cavaliers have relied on their defense to get them through the regular season, allowing just 53.7 ppg which ranks the group second in the nation. Opponents have shot just 39.6 percent from the field and 29.5 percent behind the three-point line when Virginia takes the floor, the latter set to be tested by a Florida team which leads the nation with 9.9 three-pointers made per game. Mike Scott, an All-ACC First-Team selection, was second in the league in scoring (18.1 ppg) and was also tops in field goal shooting percentage (.562). Among the league leaders in rebounding, Scott was responsible for 8.4 boards per game and that afforded the Cavaliers a 3.2 rpg advantage over the competition. Joe Harris is the only other player on the roster scoring in double figures this year at 11.5 ppg, his 49 three-pointers second only to Sammy Zeglinski (8.7 ppg) who knocked down 57 triples.
All five players listed as potential starters for the Gators for today are averaging double-digit scoring, the top performer in the group being Kenny Boynton with his 16.3 ppg, to go a long with 2.5 assists per game as well. Boynton earned All-SEC First-Team honors this season along with Bradley Beal (14.6 ppg, 6.5 rpg) who came on strong in just his first year. In fact, Bradley played so well that he became the first player in Florida history to earn a spot on the all-conference first team as well as being named All- Freshman as well. Beal was able to spread his talents to passing (71 assists) and defense (45 steals, 29 blocked shots) and even tried his hand at three- point shooting (55-of-167) were he was marginally successful. Erving Walker (12.1 ppg), Erik Murphy (10.7 ppg) and Patric Young (10.3 ppg) were huge contributors to the team scoring 76.3 ppg this season.
Virginia has put up some strong fights against top-notch competition in the ACC this season, but with so many Gators letting loose with three-point attempts it will be hard to keep all of those players in check today.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida 66, Virginia 58
03/16 11:06:44 ET
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