The Florida Gators
enter the NCAA Tournament 2011 with high hopes, but they could have themselves a
heck of a fight on Thursday, as they take on
the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos.
Experience the Key for Gauchos
This isn't the
first rodeo for these Santa Barbara Gauchos in the NCAA Tournament. Last season, they won the
Big West title, were a No. 15 seed, and lost to the Ohio State Buckeyes by 17.
Sure, it wasn't the greatest result in the world, but it definitely gave the
team a real leg up for this year.
In that game last
season, Orlando Johnson scored 20 points against the Buckeyes in the dance last
year, and he is going to be the key to an upset again this season. Johnson
averaged 21.1 PPG on the season, and he is a lethal as anything shooter. The
big man is shooting 40.1 percent from the outside and 47.5 percent overall from
the field? Sound familiar? Ask the Gators how well they did last year in the
NCAA Tournament against a young buck named Jimmer Fredette...
Of course, Johnson
has a great wingman in James Nunnally as well. Nunnally is largely the same
player as Johnson, and the stats really show it. Nunnally is averaging 16.4 PPG
this season, and he also has some strong shooting percentages both in front of
and beyond the arc.
Gators Overrated as No. 2?
Let's be honest
here... The Florida Gators have no business being a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
That doesn't make them a bad team. In fact, Head Coach Billy Donovan has
himself a heck of an experienced team as well. All five starters are back from
last year's tourney team, and they are really convinced that this is the year
that they can get back to the Final Four.
Erving Walker is
averaging 14.4 PPG this season, and he is the scoring leader of the team.
However, the emotional leader is clearly a do it all. He is the third leading
scorer at 11.5 PPG, and he is tops on the team in both assists (3.5 APG) and
rebounding (7.8 RPG). He is one of the active SEC career leaders in scoring,
assists, rebounds, and steals, and he would love to cap his career with a trip
to Houston for the Final Four.
Hot Gauchos are the March Madness Pick
This could be a
really interesting battle to watch, as this could be one of those games that
comes down to the wire just like last season's overtime loss to Fredette and
the BYU Cougars. The Gauchos came out of a Big West conference that was
probably a heck of a lot better this season than many think. The NCAA Basketball odds boards are leaning on the Florida Gators, listing them at -13. This is a line that stated at 14.5, but the sportsbooks are catching on to the fact that the Gauchos are underrated.
Nunnally are the real deal, and this is a team that could legitimately be
underrated as a No. 15 seed. Parlay the underrated No. 15 with an overrated No.
2, and throw in catching 12 1/2 points, and recipe is just right for the big
dogs to bark in a big way.