(7) Florida vs. (15) Norfolk State: West Region
Florida 24-10, 10-6 SEC (At large)
Norfolk State 26-9, 13-3 MEAC (Conference Tournament Champions)
Time: 6:10 p.m. Sunday
Location: CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.
First round results
Florida def. Virginia, 71-45
Norfolk State def. Missouri, 86-84
Winner will face: (3) Marquette or (6) Murray State, Thursday in Phoenix
Florida No. 25 AP; No. 21 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Norfolk State 131
Line: Florida -14 (O/U 141)
Players to Watch
Florida: G Erving Walker, 5-8 Sr. (12.1 ppg, 4.7 apg, 37.1% 3s); G Kenny Boynton, 6-2 Jr. (16.3 ppg, 2.5 apg, 42.7% 3s); C Patric Young, 6-9 So. (10.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 60.8% FG). The Gators are at their best when Young is aggressive – and he was on Friday. He made all six of his field goals for 13 points. He also had seven rebounds, including three on the offensive end.
Norfolk State: C Kyle O’Quinn, 6-10 Sr. (15.9 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.7 bpg); G Pendarvis Williams, 6-6 So. (11.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.5 apg); G/F Chris McEachin, 6-6 Sr. (12.8 ppg, 1.3 spg, 34.1% 3s). All season, experts were wondering why teams couldn’t take advantage of Missouri’s size disparity. On Friday, O’Quinn showed everyone else how it’s done with 26 points (on 10-of-16 from the field), 14 rebounds and a pair of blocked shots. The Jamaica, N.Y., native has now shot 50 percent or better in six straight games and has made 58.3 percent of his shots this season.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Florida: It seems like a loss gave the Gators confidence. After being blown out by Kentucky twice this season, Florida played the No. 1 Wildcats close on March 9. In their first game since, the Gators shot 52.8 percent and scored 71 points against one of the best defenses in the country. Florida, which shoots 46.2 percent from the field and 38.4 from 3, made 24 of their 30 2-point shots and dominated the paint against the Cavs. They also out-rebounded them 36-21 and forced 13 turnovers. That’s a good sign, because for the year, Florida gets 38.5 percent of its points from behind the 3-point line. For the year, Florida has a 1.4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Norfolk State: The Spartans have won eight straight games and have proven they can play with good teams. As well as beating Missouri Friday, Norfolk State played Marquette within two points and beat Drexel in November. On Friday, they shot 54 percent from the field, 53 percent from the 3-point line and out-performed Missouri 35-23 on the glass.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Florida: The win over Virginia probably needs to be put into perspective. With a plethora of injuries, the Cavs haven’t been the same team for about a month. Despite its performance on Friday, Florida is an average-to-weak rebounding team. The Gators out-rebounds opponents by just 2.5 per game. Against O’Quinn and the Spartans, that number could haunt them. Florida’s overall defense is pretty good. It gives up only 43.2 percent from the floor. However, teams shoot 35 percent from 3 and make 6.2 3-pointers per game against it.
Norfolk State: Despite Friday’s performance, this is not a great shooting team. For the year, NSU is shooting just 44 percent from the floor, 31.8 percent from behind the 3-point line and 65.4 percent from the foul line. The Spartans average just one point per possession, so the argument that Friday’s offensive performance was a fluke may be legit. Even with O’Quinn, who is a great player and rebounder, Norfolk is not a great rebounding team. They out-rebounded their MEAC opponents by just 2.3 per game and they allow opponents to rebound 32.5 percent of their own misses.
The Bottom Line: The Spartans simply don’t have enough offensive talent to do it again. Do they?
The Pick: Florida 79, Norfolk State 61
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 216-165-6 (Through Friday, March 17)
Round of 32 Against the Spread: 19-12-1