Florida Gators: NCAA Tournament

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida’s defense is going to be tested immediately in the NCAA tournament.

The Gators earned a No. 3 seed in the South region and will play its tournament opener against No. 14 seed Northwestern State, which entered the weekend as the nation’s top-scoring team. The game will be played Friday in Austin, Texas.

The Gators (26-7), who won the regular-season Southeastern Conference title but fell to Ole Miss in the SEC tournament, entered the weekend third nationally in scoring defense (53.2 points per game allowed). UF has allowed just one opponent to score more than 66 points since a 67-61 loss to Kansas State on Dec. 22, 2012.

Northwestern State (23-8) won the Southland Conference tournament. The Demons entered the weekend averaging 82.4 points per game, but that number dropped to 81.0 per game after the conference tournament.

The Demons have four players averaging in double figures in scoring, led by 6-foot-7 forward DeQuan Hicks (14.1 ppg). Northwestern also is pretty deep. They have 10 players averaging at least 15.5 minutes per game.

Should the Gators get by Northwestern State they face a potential third-round matchup with No. 6 seed UCLA (25-9), which plays No. 11 seed Minnesota. UF has won all three of its meetings against the Bruins, and all have come in the NCAA tournament. The Gators beat UCLA in the 2006 national championship game, in the 2007 national semifinals and in a third-round game in 2011.

If the Gators do advance to the Sweet 16, they could potentially face No. 2 seed Georgetown (25-6). That would be a rematch of the Navy-Marine Corps Classic aboard the USS Bataan at Mayport (Fla.) Naval Station that was never finished because of condensation on the court.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Lost in Florida’s impressive blowout victories over Virginia and Norfolk State is the improved play of guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker.

The two still aren’t shooting well from 3-point range -- a combined 3-for-17 -- but they have been much more under control in terms of shot selection and not driving into the lane without a plan and getting caught without anywhere to go with the ball.

[+] EnlargeErving Walker
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesUF coach Billy Donovan wants Erving Walker to take the open shots, but Walker has had to make serious adjustments to his play to accommodate running the offense, too.
Walker has been particularly effective. He has five assists and four turnovers in the two games, but he has been smart with the basketball in the lane. He hasn’t tried to drive and shoot over much bigger players -- like he did against Kentucky’s Anthony Davis.

He’s playing his smartest basketball of the season, and it’s coming at the perfect time, with the Gators (25-10) heading into Thursday’s Sweet 16 matchup with Marquette (27-7). Even though this is Walker’s third season as a starter, it’s the first in which he hasn't had an experienced frontcourt, and that makes a difference, UF coach Billy Donovan said.

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Sorting through bracket, recruiting style! 

March, 14, 2012
3/14/12
12:09
PM ET
The past few days, conspiracy theorists have picked apart the NCAA tournament bracket. Why are Duke and Kentucky in the same bracket 20 years after “The Shot.” Roy Williams vs. Bill Self? In St. Louis? And the list goes on.

Allow me to pick apart the bracket from my own angle through the lens of a recruiting junkie. I’ll try to keep the conspiracies out of the mix and hit you with just the chilling facts of what’s going on behind the scenes as these teams meet.

If Missouri and Florida win … Frank Haith will get to rekindle a relationship with Gators guard Kenny Boynton. A native of the Miami area, Boynton made an official visit to Miami during the tenure of Haith. Missouri power forward Ricardo Ratliffe was also once considered a Florida lean.

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