(1) Florida Gators
The Gators are out to win a national championship, and even if they beat the Albany Great Danes by 100, they still would have had to win five more games to accomplish their ultimate goal. That didn’t happen, of course, as the Albany Great Danes proved to be as difficult of an out as you could ask a 16 seed to be, losing 67-55. They felt better about the loss than the Gators did about the win, but it’d be a mistake to put too much stock into this down performance. They’re still the top overall seed in the tournament and a team that hasn’t lost since December 2. Don’t expect them to get caught up looking ahead again as this was a quality learning experience for them. They’ll give much more respect to Pittsburgh, who absolutely throttled Colorado in their opening round game. Gators head coach Billy Donovan didn’t sugarcoat anything after the game, stating that a similar effort will likely lead to their elimination against the Panthers. The Gators’ three point shooters will need to hit at a higher rate than they did on Thursday when they went 3-12. Their interior defense is also really going to get tested by the Panthers. Patric Young posted a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds, his play against Talib Zanna will be key.
(9) Pittsburgh Panthers
Typically the 8-9 matchups are some of the best in the opening round, but Pittsburgh and Colorado was one sided from the start and never in doubt for Pitt. The Panthers outscored the Buffs 46-18 in the first half and cruised to a 77-48 victory. Panthers head coach Jamie Dixon was able to rest his starters for a good portion of the second half, a major positive when you have to play the top team in the country in roughly 48 hours. The tempo was set early on by Talib Zanna, who dominated the Buffs in the interior. He finished with 18 points on 6-7 shooting from the field and 6-6 from the free throw line, five rebounds and two blocks in 26 minutes of action. It wasn’t a great three point shooting game for the Panthers as they shot just 28.6 percent from distance, but they did force 17 turnovers while having a team assist-to-turnover ratio of 6:1. Ball control and offensive efficiency is going to be equally important in their second round matchup against the Gators, who will make them work much harder offensively for quality looks than the Buffs did. If Zanna, who recently dominated a very talented North Carolina frontline in the ACC postseason tournament, continues his hot streak and Lamar Patterson, James Robinson and Cameron Wright don’t falter against the Gators’ pressure, we could be in for a very interesting Round of 32 matchup.
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