Potential 2014 NCAA Tournament Showdowns: Duke Blue Devils vs. Florida Gators

By Taylor Sturm
Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

The Duke Blue Devils and Florida Gators are both two teams that have the talent and experience to make a deep run in the 2014 NCAA Tournament, but do not play each other during the regular season. If the Blue Devils and the Gators were to face off in the 2014 NCAA Tournament in likely a Sweet Sixteen or Elite Eight situation, hypothetically, who would win?

Duke is one of the most talented teams in the ACC, but has failed to meet expectations so far this season. Arguably their only win over a top opponent came against the Michigan Wolverines; they lost to the Kansas Jayhawks, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Arizona Wildcats and Clemson Tigers. The Blue Devils have the talent and have had the schedule to prepare for the 2014 NCAA Tournament and should make a deep run.

The Blue Devils’ biggest strength is hands-down superstar freshman Jabari Parker. In my opinion, he should be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. He’s just a different class than most of the players in college basketball. If Duke is to make it to the Final Four, Parker will have to have big games against big teams, because, if the Blue Devils are to stay true to form, there will be a time in the tournament where the only players capable of scoring are Rodney Hood and Parker.

At this point in the season, Florida has a 17 – 2 record and is currently in first place in the SEC and on an 11-game win streak that started with wins over the Memphis Tigers and Kansas. Its two losses came to the Connecticut Huskies and Wisconsin Badgers, but the team continues to get better game after game.

The Gators’ biggest strength is that they have one of the top three point guards in college basketball, Scottie Wilbekin. Wilbekin isn’t going to give you 30 points on any given night like Connecticut’s Shabazz Napier, but he always seems to make crucial plays at the right time. Wilbekin is at another level than many point guards in the NCAA and causes havoc against opponents with his defensive ability.

The game would essentially come down to the play of the Gators’ own Patric Young. Young can be a dominant player at times, but tends to disappear in big games; a problem that has revealed itself throughout his career. If Young has a big game, Florida would win handily. Similarly, Duke relies far too much on Hood and Parker. If both of those players can break through Florida’s tough defense, Duke should win handily.

Both teams are considered one of the top teams in their respective conferences, and both teams will have every opportunity to make it to the Final Four and/or National Championship game. However, based on stats, schedule and talent, the winner of the hypothetical match-up between the Blue Devils and the Gators should be Billy Donovan and Florida. The Blue Devils’ inconsistency and Florida’s all-around talent would beat out Duke’s duo of Hood and Parker in the long run, and, although I have the Blue Devils in at least the Elite Eight, they will bow out early if they are to face the Gators.

Taylor Sturm is an SEC Basketball Writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TSturmRS, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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