NCAA Basketball Picks and Tips: Norfolk State vs Florida Gators
Sunday, March 18, 2012
by Mike Stewart
The Spartans’ 86-84 stunner against Missouri - the first 15-2 upset since 2001 - sent shockwaves through the college basketball world. What made it even more surprising was it was the first time Norfolk State, champions of the MEAC, had ever appeared in the tournament.
The Gators, meanwhile, cruised to an easy 71-45 victory over 10th-seeded Virginia despite a 4 for 23 shooting effort from 3-point range.
Florida Gators (24-10): The Gators entered the tournament leading the nation with 9.9 made 3-pointers per game, but they didn’t look the part in their opening win against Virginia. The scariest part for future opponents, though, is that it didn’t matter. Florida overwhelmed the Cavaliers athletically, getting out on a number of fast breaks and shooting 24 for 30 on shots inside the arc. Casey Prather was the main benefactor of the Gators’ run-and-gun game plan, scoring a career-high 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting in 22 minutes off the bench.
Norfolk State Spartans (26-9): Before this tournament, only four No. 15 seeds had ever won. In the past, the magic has always run out for these Cinderellas, who have never advanced to the Sweet 16. Can the Spartans be any different? If they stay red-hot from beyond the arc, and if Kyle O’Quinn keeps patrolling the paint, anything can happen. A 31-percent 3-point shooting team this season, Norfolk State shot a blazing 10 for 19 from deep in the upset of Missouri, led by Chris McEachin and Pendarvis Williams draining four 3-pointers apiece. O’Quinn, a 6-foot-10 senior from New York, netted 26 points and 14 rebounds for his 20th double-double of the season.
1. The four No. 15 seeds who reached the Round of 32 have lost by an average of 11 points.
2. Only Coppin State in 1997 kept the game close, falling 82-81 against 10th-seeded Texas.
3. Florida is the nation’s 22nd-highest scoring team (76.1), while Norfolk State ranks 105th (70.1).
NCAA BASKETBALL PREDICTION: Gators 76, Spartans 68.
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