There are a lot of different ways any basketball game could go, especially one in the NCAA Tournament. Players step up or shrink, neutral sites' unpredictable crowds ebb and flow, and the challenge of playing a team well beyond your conference after prepping for familiar faces and foes for months is often enough to throw a team off its axis. Here are four scenarios I can see happening for Florida vs. Virginia later today; I don't know which one I would bet on, but I'd wager that we'll see one of these four play out.
Bradley Beal Goes Off
The NCAA Tournament is the domain of immensely talented players and great teams. You typically need to have one or both to make a deep run in March. Bradley Beal is definitely one of the immensely talented players, even though Florida is only a great team some of the time. And there isn't necessarily a go-to defender for Beal on Virginia's roster: Mike Scott definitely has the length to trouble him, but perhaps not the quickness, and Joe Harris has one hand, which is ... not optimal. And so Beal, who knows full well that the world will be watching him, and who has a fair bit of upward mobility in NBA Draft projections, could just rip Virginia to shreds with a 20/8/6 or something similar. That would be neat, and Florida would probably win comfortably.
Virginia Grinds It Out
The Cavaliers may have problems imposing their pace and will on Florida, especially if the Gators come out hot. But if Virginia can build a five- to nine-point lead in the first half, and the Wahoos keep leaving Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton "open" before challenging threes, there's a pretty good chance Florida will revert to jacking up threes and playing defense that isn't exactly inspired. The Gators can get out of funks like those, and sometimes even shoot their way out of them, but if Virginia can keep this game in the 50s, the Cavs will probably pull the upset.
Mike Scott Goes Off
If Beal's a matchup problem for Virginia, Scott is a nightmare for Florida. Have you seen Florida defend someone who is 6'7" and quick well since Will Yeguete's injury? Neither have I, but I've seen Jeffrey Taylor, Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and JaMychal Green get theirs in that time, and Scott's probably better than all of those names at this point. Virginia has far less around him than any of those other players have around them, and thus Florida can hedge on screens and bring extra defenders to neutralize him, but if the Gators don't, and Scott gets hot? Watch out.
The Frust-Gators Ride Again
Florida gets out to an early lead, uses Erik Murphy and Patric Young well, and then gets away from both big guys for no discernible reason. This leads to the erosion or loss of said lead toward the end of the first half. Florida reasserts itself early in the second half, but falls into the same three-happy rut in the second half, and the game is close in the final minutes. Billy Donovan implores his Gators to play defense, they do so well for five minutes, and Florida moves on with a close victory.
If I had to pick one scenario I'd lean most toward, it's this one. But I ain't rooting for it.