Rushed Reactions: #1 Florida 61, #9 Pittsburgh 45Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2014
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Three Key Takeaways.
- A Defensive Clinic. Thirty minutes into today’s game, the score was 38-27 and Pitt had put up a grand total of three points in the second half. The margin may have only been 11 at the time, but considering how sparse the open looks were for the Panthers, most everyone in the building strongly felt that the game was already over. And it was. Even though Pitt finally found a few openings to knock down 18 more points before the game was finished, the Panthers never really threatened and Florida more or less rode some timely buckets by Scottie Wilbekin to the convincing win. Other than Arizona and maybe Louisville, there isn’t a better half-court defense left in this NCAA Tournament, which makes the Gators an extremely tough out.
- A Team of No Stars. Wilbekin made some excellent offensive plays tonight, and the Gators are outstanding at running their offense and finding proper spacing in it, but I still have moderate concerns about their lack of a true offensive star in this lineup. Maybe it ultimately won’t matter — greater than the sum of their parts, and all that — but it doesn’t feel like grinding away games in the 60s is going to lead to a championship. Somewhere along the way the Florida offense is going to have to prove it can score to keep up with a hot group of playmakers, and they’ll have to prove that they’re up to the task.
- Pitt Had a Nice Overachieving Season. Coming into this year, probably not many expected that Jamie Dixon’s squad would end up in the round of 32, but there they were. There was a lot of griping about their lack of quality wins this season and the rest of it, but 26 wins and a fifth-place finish in the new-look ACC with a nice conference tourney victory over North Carolina is nothing to sneeze at. This is especially so given the limited offensive options that Dixon had at his disposal this year — Lamar Patterson was a revelation as a senior, but there were no other reliable scorers on this roster. With Patterson and second-leading scorer Talib Zanna graduating, it’ll be interesting to see which of a host of young players including James Robinson, Michael Young and Josh Newkirk can develop for his program.
Star of the Game. Scottie Wilbekin, Florida. In an ugly defensive-oriented game with no offensive stars, Wilbekin was the Gator who regularly created offense for himself. Although Pitt never really threatened in the second half, Wilbekin ensured that would be the case with a superb 13-point, 6-of-10 shooting performance that allowed the Gators to slowly but assuredly pull away from Pitt. After a long drought in the mid-second half, Wilbekin hit a three, made four layups and made a jumper to keep the Panthers at bay and lead his team to the Sweet Sixteen. He’s now a perfect 4-of-4 in his career in the round of 32.
Sights & Sounds. Florida fans showed up in Orlando today, as the upper deck was completely full and mostly filled with orange and blue. One thing that is quite noticeable about this fan base is that there is a definite “Gator uniform.” For the men, it’s a blue and orange polo shirt with khaki shorts, and often a white Steve Spurrier-style visor (see below). For the women, it varies a bit more, but the blue or orange sun dress with a great deal of flair seems de rigeur among this group. I guess everybody has a thing. And here’s New England Patriots head coach, a guest of Billy Donovan’s today, visored out and enjoying the game.
What’s Next? The Sweet Sixteen in Memphis, of course. #1 Florida advances to face the winner of Sunday’s round of 32 game against the winner of UCLA and Stephen F. Austin. Both teams present an interesting new set of challenges than the teams the Gators faced in Orlando this weekend.