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Florida Gulf Coast
Can the Cinderella run continue for Florida Gulf Coast? It's very unlikely at this point against Florida, a team that has been near the top of the statistical standings since the start of the season. The Gators have a great offense and defense which makes beating them harder than any of Florida Gulf Coast's previous opponents. That fact is emphasized in the line for this game as Florida comes in as -13 point favorites.
FGCU's previous opponents can't really be compared to Florida which is the first sign of them coming back to earth. Georgetown didn't have enough offensive options while San Diego State just isn't that great of a team never having won more than two straight games in the Mountain West. Florida, on the other hand, is a great team with Final Four aspirations.
The Eagles have a leader in Sherwood Brown, but it's his teammates that have stepped up in the tourney. Brett Comer continues to dish the ball like Steve Nash with 24 assists in his last two games. There's a reason FGCU has so many highlight dunks and Comer is the main behind most of them with his precision passes. Bernard Thompson has been unstoppable from all spots on the court with 23 points in each of the last two games. Of course, you can't leave out Chase Fieler and Eric McKnight who are the ones providing the emphatic alley-oop dunks that everyone sees in the replays. And yes, in addition to Brown's leadership, he's been dominating on the court with 41 points and 17 rebounds in two games. This is a fun team to watch, but that fun might not be in their favor against the Gators.
Florida's antidote for all of those players is a well-rounded squad starting in the backcourt. Kenny Boynton runs the show and only turns the ball over 1.3 times per game. The Eagles have preyed on easy baskets and turnovers in their first couple games and if Florida can hang onto the ball, that aspect of their attack will be gone. Erik Murphy allows Florida to spread the floor with his shot which gives Patric Young room to operate in the paint. Throw in Mike Rosario (25 points vs. Minnesota) and Scottie Wilbekin (five assists per game) and you start to get scared. Off the bench, Will Yeguete and Casey Prather aren't huge scorers, but they are physical enough to cause problems with their defense.
The Gators haven't won a close game all season which is still kind of worrisome, especially if FGCU puts up a fight. Still, it's hard to go against Florida with how they've dominated teams so far. The Eagles are playing awesome right now with a ton of confidence, but this is going to be their toughest task by far of the tourney. The late runs they had in their first two games when they got out to big leads will be very hard to pull off against Florida.
Will Sherwood Brown's motivational speech before this game be enough for the Eagles or will Billy Donovan's Gators be too much? This game could be a lot closer than people are predicting, but it's a lofty prediction for those that think Florida Gulf Coast can pull off another upset.
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