After losing in the Elite Eight for three straight years, the Florida Gators have advanced to the Final Four with a 62-52 win over this year’s Cinderella, No. 11 seed Dayton, on Saturday.
A strong defensive effort was they key for Florida, as they limited Dayton to eight fast break points, one second chance point and the Flyers made less than 40 percent of their shots from the floor (19-for-48; 39.6 percent). If that wasn’t enough the Gators also out-rebounded the Flyers 37-26, and if they hadn’t gone cold offensively for close to six minutes in the second half their margin of victory surely would have been much larger.
The Gators have justified their status as the top overall seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament, as they’ve won all four of their games by double-digits despite scoring more than 70 points just once. A team filled with upperclassmen is certainly the exception on today’s college basketball landscape, but the Gators have used their experience to stave off upsets thus far in the tournament and extend their winning streak to 30 consecutive games. Their last loss came on Dec. 2 against UConn, who could be their next opponent with the stakes much higher in Arlington, Texas next Saturday if the Huskies can beat Michigan State on Sunday.
The Gators may enter next weekend as the odds-on favorite to keep their winning streak going and take the national title home to Gainesville. Their group of seniors, led by guard Scottie Wilbekin and center Patric Young, have a bigger goal than simply making the Final Four and the expectations attached to possibly being the national title favorite should not be a burden. With strong defense and clutch play offensively, I expect to see coach Billy Donovan cutting down the nets with his team on April 7.
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.