It’s March Madness, the greatest time of the year. Looking for some help with your bracket? Don’t know which teams to believe in, in this crazy college hoops season? We’ve got your back. We’re breaking down every first-round game in the field of 68, plus looking ahead at which teams will make the run to the Final Four.
4. Florida (24-8, 14-4/SEC)– Gators fans were skeptical when the school hired Louisiana Tech’s Mike White to replace the legendary Billy Donovan, but after an up-and-down first year, White has them right back where they belong: in the Big Dance.
Florida was impressive all season long, knocking off tourney teams Seton Hall, Kentucky, Miami, South Carolina and FGCU, and representing themselves well in losses to Duke, Florida State, and Gonzaga.
This team is deep, balanced, and athletic. Sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen (13.9 ppg) leads the way, and senior Canyon Barry (Rick Barry’s son, and yes–he shoots granny-style free throws like his dad), is a must-find shooter on the wing (12.1 ppg).
One reason to be skeptical of the Gators is that they lost starting center John Egbunu, to a torn ACL in February. They haven’t quite looked the same since.
13. East Tennessee State (27-7, 14-4/Southern)– The Buccaneers are back in the Big Dance for the first time since 2010, and there is some reason to believe they might have a chance to stick around for a little while.
6-3 senior guard T.J. Cromer (19.1 ppg), is tough to stay in front of, and he’s entering the NCAA Tournament on a roll, having poured in 41 in the SoCon semifinals against Samford and 23 in the title game to edge top-seeded UNC-Greensboro.
6-4 junior Desonta Bradford (10.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4 apg) is the only other player averaging in double figures in scoring, but nine guys see 15-plus minutes of playing time per game.
This team has some size, with bigger guards and rotation bigs who line up at 6-7, 6-8, and 6-9. They won’t look overmatched against the Gators.
PREDICTION: Florida will hold T.J. Cromer in check, as the senior was held down in games against big-time opponents this season, scoring just 4 points in a 75-61 loss to Dayton and 14 on 4-of-13 shooting against Tennessee. The Gators have enough to get past ETSU, but we think their run ends at the hands of Virginia in the Round of 32.