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NCAA Basketball Florida GatorsMarch Madness

2013 NCAA Tournament: Five Reasons Florida Will Make the Final Four

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NCAA Tournament: Five Reasons The Florida Gators Will Make It To The Final Four

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Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators have had a relatively easy time to this point in the 2013 NCAA Tournament as the No. 3 seed in the South Region, beating Northwestern State 79-47 in the second round and methodically controlling their third round game against Minnesota to the point that the final score (78-64) did not reflect how much they had outplayed the Gophers.

Now the Gators will face No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast on Friday night in the Sweet 16, with a date against the winner of Kansas and Michigan in the Elite Eight on the line. The Eagles are probably the biggest story thus far in this year’s tournament, for reasons on and off the court. They are the first 15-seed to reach the Sweet 16 in tournament history, and have won both of their games by 10 points over No. 2 seed Georgetown (78-68) and No. 7 seed San Diego State (81-71).

Florida has made the Elite Eight in each of the past two seasons, but they have not earned a trip to the Final Four since winning the second of back-to-back national titles in 2007. This year’s team is full of experience similar to those two national title teams, with seven of their top eight players in minutes per game being upperclassmen.

Assuming they can beat Florida Gulf Coast, a matchup on Easter Sunday with Kansas or Michigan will not be easy for Florida. But here are five reasons I think the Gators can earn a trip to the Final Four in Atlanta.

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5. Roster Depth

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Gators have eight players that average at least 16 minutes per game, and six of those players also average at least six points per game. All eight of those primary options for coach Billy Donovan average at least 2.5 rebounds per game as well.

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4. Forward Erik Murphy

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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Murphy is the Gators’ leading scorer (12.8 points per game) and he has averaged 16.5 points and six rebounds per game in two tournament games. He has made over 46 percent of his three-pointers this season (4-for-7 during the NCAA Tournament), and his continued proficiency as an outside shooter will be important for Florida to keep winning.

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3. Center Patric Young

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Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

Young gives the Gators a big advantage in the low post against Florida Gulf Coast, as the Eagles don’t have a player with his size and strength that plays regularly. Things will be tougher against Kansas’ Jeff Withey or Michigan’s Mitch McGary in the Elite Eight, but Young has to stay out of foul trouble and keeping him involved offensively will be important for Florida to have a chance to get to Atlanta.

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2. Defense

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Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

The Gators are third in the country in scoring defense (53.8 points per game), and they are also fourth in opponents’ field goal percentage (37.8 percent). Playing against some weak SEC teams definitely padded those statistics, but that defensive prowess will be critical if Florida is to beat some tougher competition in their next two games and go to the Final Four.

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1. Coach Billy Donovan

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Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

Donovan is one of the most accomplished coaches in recent college basketball history, and he is surely spending this week making sure his team does not take Florida Gulf Coast lightly. This may not be the most talented team he has had at Florida, at least in terms of NBA-caliber players, but Donovan has been able to accentuate the strengths of this year’s team all season and that will have to continue over the next two games.