The Florida Gators earned their fourth straight trip to the Elite Eight with a 79-68 win over UCLA on Thursday night, and they’ll now take on Cinderella No. 11 seed Dayton on Saturday with a Final Four berth on the line. The Gators were the No. 1 overall seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, and they’ve won each of their first three games by double-digits while extending their winning streak to 29 straight games.
Billy Donovan’s team has rare experience in this age of college basketball, with a group of seniors that have continued to come back to school in order to try to win a national title. That may give them some advantage from here on out, but is a younger player the key to Florida’s continued success?
Michael Frazier II went 5-for-8 from three-point range and led the Gators with 19 points against UCLA, and he also added six rebounds and three assists in the game. He had just 13 points in Florida’s first two tournament games, but he also had almost as many field goal attempts against UCLA (13) as he had against Albany and Pittsburgh combined (15).
Dayton’s first three NCAA Tournament opponents have gone a combined 8-for-43 (18.6 percent) from beyond the arc, but it’s worth noting that only one of those three teams (Stanford) finished the regular season in the top 200 in the country in three-point shooting percentage and none of the three entered postseason play in the top 125 in total three-point attempts. Florida will be the Flyers’ most formidable tournament opponent from beyond the arc, and Frazier II has close to 100 more three-point attempts (256; 6.9 per game) than anyone else on the team right now.
The Gators will need their senior leaders to play well against Dayton and in any subsequent NCAA Tournament games, but Frazier’s role as a perimeter shooter will be crucial. If his contribution is noticed for the right reasons, Florida may be cutting down the nets in North Texas on April 7.
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.