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Florida -3 over Virginia:
Unlike their championship teams from 2006 and 2007, this Gators squad is much more perimeter oriented. Led by explosive guards Kenny Boyton, Brad Beal and Erving Walker, the Gators really look to push the tempo and absolutely love the three-point shot. They led the nation this year with 10 threes a game. They lived by it more than they died by it as they shot 39 percent from beyond the arc as a team. Ironically, they struggle somewhat to defend the long ball. Sophomore center Patric Young has made some strides, but he’s limited offensively and doesn’t rebound as well as he should. The Gators will struggle when they run into a team that can contain them out on the perimeter and attack them inside. Their faith in their long-range shooting could turn out to be their demise. Every team is prone to off games and they don’t get enough easy buckets.
The Cavaliers are back in the tournament for the first time since 2007 and only the second time in 11 years. Fifth-year senior Mike Scott has been stellar for them this season, leading the team in points and rebounds with 17 and eight. The way the Cavaliers win games is with their defense, though. The 53 points they allow a game is second only to Wisconsin in the field. On average they held their opponents to 39 percent shooting from the field and 29 percent from beyond the arc. The Cavaliers are not coming into the tournament at full strength. They recently lost Malcolm Brogdon to a season-ending injury and starting center Assane Sene was suspended for the remainder of the season on January 22. Even without them, the Cavaliers will remain tough defensively, but their depth is a concern. Offense has been an issue all year long no matter who is in the lineup. They’ll have serious trouble keeping pace without big nights from Scott and Joe Harris. Their offensive woes really hurt them when facing teams in the RPI Top 25, against whom they went 1-5. Look for the guard play of Florida to carry them past the tough defense of Virginia, who doesn't have enough firepower to hang with the Gators. GL
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