Minnesota (21-12) vs. Florida (27-7)
Sunday, March 24, 6:10 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Erwin Center (16,734) -- Austin, Texas Television: TNT. NCAA Tournament Record: Minnesota 13-11, Florida 36-15. Series Record: Florida leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: After pulling off an upset in the second round, the 11th-seeded Minnesota Golden Gophers will try to continue their Cinderella story when they take on the third-seeded Florida Gators in third-round action of the 2013 NCAA Tournament at the Erwin Center on Sunday evening.
The winner moves on to the Sweet 16 to take on either San Diego State or Florida Gulf Coast.
These two teams have met just once before, with Florida coming away with a 74-66 win in March of 1993.
Minnesota (21-12) not only upset UCLA in the second round, but handled the Bruins rather easily, shooting nearly 51 percent from the field in the 83-63 victory. Andre Hollins picked an outstanding time for one of the best performances of his career, as he tallied 28 points (on 5-of-8 from 3-point range) to go along with nine rebounds and five assists. Austin Hollins added 16 points and seven assists, Joe Coleman netted 14 points and Trevor Mbakwe controlled the paint with nine points and 12 rebounds. The win was a historic one for head coach Tubby Smith, as it was his first NCAA Tournament win in six seasons at the helm of the Gophers.
Like most of its Big Ten brethren, Minnesota had to survive this season by playing solidly at both the offensive (68.8 ppg) and defensive (61.7 ppg) ends, and the 83-point outburst against UCLA was a great sign considering it had scored 62 points or fewer 10 times in its previous 14 games. The Gophers rely on a strong, balanced starting five, with Andre Hollins (14.3 ppg, 3.4 apg) and Austin Hollins (10.7 ppg, 1.7 spg) manning the perimeter. The pair have been crucial late in games with impressive free-throw percentages -- both making better than 78 percent of their attempts at the stripe. The Gophers are equally stellar in the frontcourt, with Mbakwe (10.0 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 1.5 bpg) and Rodney Williams (10.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.3 bpg) making a difference at both ends of the floor. Joe Coleman rounds out the starting lineup with 8.8 ppg on greater than 48 percent efficiency from the field.
Despite playing a tight matchup with 14th-seeded Northwestern State for the first 20 minutes of its first-round matchup, Florida (27-7) got its act together after halftime on the way to a convincing 79-47 victory. In addition to playing their trademark stellar defense, holding the Demons to just 36 percent shooting from the field, the Gators had four players hit for double figures, paced by 18 points from Erik Murphy, who shot 8-of-11 from the floor and grabbed eight rebounds. Patric Young tallied 16 points and nine boards in the winning effort, while Kenny Boynton and Scottie Wilbekin tacked on 11 points apiece.
The Gators are fortunate to have a strong offensive attack, the team netting 71.9 ppg, but the biggest reason for their tremendous success this season has been a defensive effort that yields a mere 53.5 ppg (third in the nation), and after their second-round triumph, they've now allowed 50 points or fewer 13 times this season. Murphy averages 12.8 ppg on 53.6 percent from the field, while adding 5.5 rpg, and he was named to the All-SEC First Team this year. Hot on Murphy's heels for the team scoring lead are Kenny Boynton (12.3 ppg) and Mike Rosario (12.2 ppg), and the three top scorers for UF have combined for 192 3-pointers at nearly a 38 percent clip. Young (10.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.6 bpg) and Wilbekin (9.1 rpg, 4.9 apg, 1.5 spg) round out the starting five and both were named to the SEC's All-Defensive Team.
Minnesota has been battle-tested in perhaps the toughest conference in the nation, so its talent is certainly not in question, especially after knocking off a strong UCLA squad. But it has had consistency issues since mid-January, going only 6-11 in its last 16 contests, so Smith will need to do a masterful coaching job. Unlike the Bruins in the last round, the Gators have the man power on the inside to combat the Gophers, and their suffocating defense will cause havoc as they live to play another day.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida 70, Minnesota 62
03/24 10:32:24 ET