No. 11 St. Bonaventure vs. No. 6 Florida
Tipoff: Approx. 9:57 p.m. Thursday, American Airlines Center, Dallas.
Announcers: Spero Dedes, Steve Smith, Len Elmore, Ros Gold-Onwude.
St. Bonaventure is on to the first round of the NCAA Tournament after defeating UCLA in Dayton, Ohio, for the program's first tourney win since 1970. The Bonnies earned a date in Dallas with the sixth-seeded Florida Gators, a team that made a run to the Elite 8 last season. Florida went 20-12 overall and 11-7 in the Southeastern Conference this year, beating eventual SEC Tournament champion Kentucky twice in the regular season. St. Bonaventure coach Mark Schmidt's squad will need to best another storied program if it hopes to enter the round of 32 for the first time since the bracket expanded. It wouldn't be a crazy feat, as 11 seeds are 17-15 against six seeds in the past eight years.
Courtney Stockard was a game-time decision in the First Four due to a hamstring issue but he didn't show any signs of an injury holding him back. The 6-foot-5 forward/guard led the team with 26 points in addition to four rebounds and four steals. That made up for unusually inefficient nights from the Bonnies' top two scorers, Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley. Adams shot 2 for 16 from the field for eight points, while Mobley shot 4 for 12 for 14 points. St. Bonaventure was highly successful with their zone defense against UCLA, forcing the Bruins into 20 turnovers. That turned out to be the difference maker in the game, as the Bonnies scored 30 points off turnovers compared to UCLA's three. Don't be surprised to see that again, as Arkansas used a zone in the SEC quarterfinals to shut out Florida in the final 4:54 of the first half. The Bonnies were solid on the boards against the Bruins as well, led by Idris Taqqee with 11 rebounds. The Gators pose less of a challenge there, as they rank 278th in the country in rebound margin.
Numbers game: St. Bonaventure
1,371 miles from Dallas
7th tournament appearance
77.5 points per game
70.6 points allowed per game
Florida ended the regular season with three straight victories against tournament teams – Auburn, Alabama and Kentucky. However, the defense struggled mightily in an 80-72 loss to Arkansas in the SEC quarterfinals. The Gators have been hot and cold this season, one aspect of their game that led CBS' Seth Davis to declare on the Selection Show that whoever won the St. Bonaventure and UCLA matchup would upset them. Losses to Loyola- Chicago, Ole Miss, South Carolina and two to Georgia certainly didn't help their resume. Florida's top five scorers, led by 6-6 guard Jalen Hudson (15.3 points per game), are all 3-point threats. Shooting guard KeVaughn Allen showed his explosiveness last year when he scored 35 points against Wisconsin in the Sweet 16. Sophomore Keith Stone has turned things around after disappointing offensively in nonconference play. He scored in the double-digits 11 times against SEC foes, including a 22-point performance in the SEC Tournament.
Numbers game: Florida
981 miles from Dallas
21st tournament appearance
76.1 points per game
69.4 points allowed per game
Outlook: Florida's offense isn't close to being as prolific or efficient as the UCLA unit St. Bonaventure just stifled. If Stockard can keep up his play and Adams and Mobley return to form, this has the making of an upset.
Prediction: St. Bonaventure 75, Florida 67.