NEW ORLEANS, LA - MARCH 10: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist #14 of the Kentucky Wildcats looks to pass as Patric Young #4 of the Florida Gators defends in the first half during the semifinals of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at New Orleans Arena on March 10, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
The Florida Gators and Marquette Golden Eagles meet in Phoenix for a Sweet 16 match up that promises plenty of offense and some NBA quality talent.
The Florida Gators face the Marquette Golden Eagles in the late game of the 2012 NCAA Tournament West Regional Championship in Phoenix, Arizona on Thursday night at 7:17 p.m. PT. This Sweet 16 meeting is only the third time the two teams have meet with the first pair of games coming in 1977 and 78, well before any of these players were born.
Despite the lack of familiarity, the two teams have much in common -- both teams love to run.
"I think it will be fun," Florida guard Kenny Boyton said on Wednesday. "It will be an up‑and‑down type game, a very physical game. I think the big keys to the game is getting back in transition and matching their physical (play)."
The two teams both average 76 points per game while holding their opponents to 65 points. Florida, however, is the nation's top three-point shooting team with an average of 9.8 per game (.383 percent) while Marquette connects on .339 of their bombs.
Crowder presents a lot of problems for the Gators, according to head coach Billy Donovan.
"He impacts the game maybe more so than any other player in the country, in every facet. He's a tremendous offensive rebounder. He is a great defender. He comes up with loose basketballs, deflections. He is a great outlet passer to start the break. He has incredible stamina with the way he can run up and down the floor. He shoots 3's, he puts it down. And maybe the most underrated part of his game is he's a phenomenal passer...I love the way he competes."
For Golden Eagles coach Buzz Williams, the focus will be on covering Florida's pro-style ball screens and both staying home on their great three-point shooters while also keeping the Gators away from the rim and off the offensive glass.
"There's very few teams -- everybody knows that they lead the country in three-point field goal makes, but there's very few teams that have that offensive rebounding percentage that at the same time have those offensive efficiency type numbers. So it's as potent an offensive team as I've studied this year," Coach Williams explained.
Williams himself is something of an aberration among the four coaches here in Phoenix for the West Regional Sweet 16 and Elite Eight match ups. MSU's Tom Izzo, Florida's Billy Donovan and Louisville's Rick Pitino have all won numerous NCAA Tournament games and all three have national championships on their resumes.
Buzz, who promised never to dance again, is well aware of his place in the pecking order, "Those three guys are the ultimate example of what this business should be about as people, the ultimate example of what they should be about as coaches... So relative to Buzz, Donovan, Izzo and Pitino, which one doesn't belong? That's the easiest question to answer."
Key match ups:
Both of these teams want to push the pace, but it's Florida's size that should be the difference.
Marquette is without 6-11 center Chris Otule (ACL tear on Dec. 6) and their other big, 6-8 forward Davante Gardner, missed time recently with a knee injury. Gardner played just 34 total minutes in Marquette's first and second round wins and is projected to come off the bench in this game.
The majority of the Golden Eagle's front line minutes will go to Jamail Jones and Jae Crowder; both only 6-6.
The Gators will start 6-10 Erik Murphy and the 6-9 Patric Young. Both are averaging 10 points per game on the season and Young is shooting 43 percent from three which lets Florida play like the Orlando Magic with one big inside and the floor spread by the other four players.
Florida also features the highest rated NBA prospect. 6-3 guard Bradley Beal is slotted to go around eighth in most NBA mock drafts. He's averaging 15 points per game on 43 percent shooting and leads his team with 6.7 rebounds per game.
So, while this could turn into a track meet with a lot of quick threes, don't be surprised if the Gators scrap that plan and take advantage of their size inside.
Young has converted 48 percent of his post up attempts this season. If the Gators go to him isolated in the low block, he should get some easy looks. If Marquette doubles the post, the Gators have plenty of great outsider shooters.
Here's a little video preview. If I sound tired and like I mispronounced Patric Young's name it's because both are true.