(3) Marquette vs. (7) Florida: West Region
Marquette 27-7, 14-4 Big East (At large)
Florida 25-10, 10-6 SEC (At large)
Time: 10:17 p.m. Thursday
Location: U.S. Airways Arena in Phoenix
Winner will face: (1) Michigan State or (4) Louisville, Sunday
Marquette def. BYU, 88-68; def. Murray State, 62-53
Florida def. Virginia, 71-45; def. Norfolk State, 84-50
Marquette No. 11 AP; No. 11 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Florida No. 25 AP; No. 21 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Line: Marquette -1½ (O/U 146)
Players to Watch
Marquette: F Jae Crowder, 6-6 Sr. (17.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 2.5 spg); G Darius Johnson-Odom, 6-2 Sr. (18.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.8 apg); G Junior Cadougan, 6-1 Jr. (6.5 ppg, 5.4 apg, 1.2 spg). Crowder earned his fifth straight double-double with 17 points and 13 rebounds in Saturday’s win over Murray State. During that stretch, the senior is averaging 18.6 points, 13.4 boards, 3.1 steals and three assists per game.
Florida: G Kenny Boynton, 6-2 Jr. (16 ppg, 2.5 apg, 41.5% 3s); C Patric Young, 6-9 So. (10.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 61.8% FG); G Bradley Beal, 6-3 Fr. (14.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2.1 apg). Beal continues to raise his game, scoring 28 points, grabbing 20 boards, handing out four assists and hitting 9-of-16 from the field in the Gators’ two NCAA blowout wins.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Marquette: Crowder and Johnson-Odom are among the best duos left in the tournament, similar to the Nolan Smith-Kyle Singler combo that led Duke to the national championship two years ago. Behind the two seniors, the Eagles average 76 points per game, but its defense that makes them go. Opponents score 65.9 points per game and shoot 40.2 percent and 31.8 percent from deep against Marquette. The Eagles force 16.6 turnovers per game, having a 3.4 turnover margin and a 1.26-to-1 assist-to-turnover margin. The Eagles have proven their mental toughness is as strong as anyone in the nation.
Florida: The Gators are a great shooting team and they have a lot of different players who can score from the perimeter. They shot 52.8 percent from the floor and 35.7 from deep against Norfolk State and have out-scored their NCAA Tournament opponents 155-95. For the season, Florida shoots 38.3 percent from behind the arc (30th nationally) and score 38.6 percent of their points from deep (sixth in the nation). Florida forces 12.8 turnovers per game and gets 6.4 steals per contest.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Marquette: Unlike the Singler-Smith combo, Marquette doesn’t have the offensive balance or depth that the Blue Devils did in 2010. When Chris Otule went down for the season, it put a serious dent in Marquette’s depth and size. For the season, the Golden Eagles have been out-rebounded 1,233-1,200. They also turn the ball over 13.3 times per game and allow 7.2 steals, and that could be a concern against a perimeter-oriented Florida team.
Florida: The Gators have no frontline depth. Having to guard Crowder could cause foul trouble, which could doom the Gators. Young is a decent defender, but otherwise, Florida has almost no defensive presence in the paint. For the year, Florida has out-rebounded its opponents by 2.9 per game, including a 40-30 margin over the Spartans, but they allow offensive rebounds on 30.3 percent of opponents’ shots. Their 71.1 free throw percentage could be a concern in what should be a tight game. Florida has four regulars who shoot under 75 percent at the stripe.
The Bottom Line: After wins over a limited Virginia team and a fluky Norfolk State, there’s far too much love for a streaky Florida team with no frontline. Can the Gators win? Of course. Can they win by have another offensive explosion? Yes. Is either of those things likely against Marquette? Don’t think so.
The Pick: Marquette 79, Florida 74
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 214-164-6
NCAA Tournament (through first two rounds): 27-21-1