Florida Gulf Coast
Florida Gulf Coast is a hot name for upsets in brackets mainly because of what it did back in 2013, making a run to the Sweet 16 as a 15-seed. But the Eagles were in the play-in Game last year and lost to North Carolina 83-67 in the first round. This obviously isn’t the same team from 2013 and they also have a new coach. The bonus is that all these guys played in the Tournament last year. But what some people aren’t considered is that Florida State is still a -12 point favorite as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
That said, the spread does seem somewhat large given the Game is in Orlando. There will be plenty of fans from both teams, but playing in Florida could have more people rooting against the Seminoles, such as any non-FSU fan in the area. The biggest thing for Florida Gulf Coast is that it has experience against elite competition. They lost three of their first Four Games to Florida, Baylor and Michigan State and could’ve easily beaten the Spartans. But while they have a great overall record, the Atlantic Sun doesn’t provide much competition and that was seen in their double-digit point wins in the Conference Tournament.
To go along with that, Florida State isn’t the easiest team to trust. The Seminoles have been great at home this season, but far from reliant anywhere else. They lost on a neutral cOurt to Temple and their best non-Conference win away from home was against Illinois. In the ACC, they beat Virginia way back in December, but lost five of their last seven Games on the road. In the ACC Tournament, it was a similar story, escaping past Virginia Tech and then losing to Notre Dame.
All that said, it’s hard to deny the talent and depth of Florida State as they’ll have an edge at almost every position. FGCU isn’t that great of a shooting team, which isn’t a recipe for success against the Seminoles. Brandon Goodwin is their best player with 18.2 points, 4.6 boards and 4.0 assists per Game and he’ll be defended by the bigger Xavier Rathan-Mayes. Another key will be for guys like Zach Johnson and Christian Terrell to hit their shots because it’s hard to see the Eagles having as much success down low that they’ve had in the Atlantic Sun. Demetris Morant, Antravious Simmons and Marc-Eddy Norelia can all be effective in the paint, but if that becomes a problem, Leonard Hamilton can turn to big man Michael Ojo.
But Florida State has potential and is the 3-seed for a reason. The Seminoles have multiple future NBA players on the roster from Dwayne Bacon to Jonathan Isaac. Finding a way to stop Bacon will be FGCU’s first test and one that probably won’t be answered. And when Isaac plays the Four or five, Florida Gulf Coast could have trouble guarding a 6-10 guy that can shoot. Still, there is a path for the Eagles to have success if guys like Rathan-Mayes and Terance Mann struggle offensively, which is more than possible.
However, not having a great shooting team feels like something that will come back to hurt FGCU in this Game. Gulf Coast was handled by Florida earlier in the season because the Gators could handle whatever the Eagles wanted to do offensively. The problem is that Florida State can do the same with their length and athleticism.
Our Pick – Florida State -12