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Open Thread: (1) Gators vs. (16) Jackson State


Midwest Region, Round One
9:50 pm ET | CBS Sports
Orleans Arena | New Orleans, Louisiana

The brief Swamp Ball preview of Jackson State can be found here.

The Gators (29-5) begin their quest for a repeat National Championship tonight in New Orleans as they take on the champion of the Southwest Athletic Conference tournament, the Jackson State Tigers (21-13).

With the repeat on their the mind the Gators will bring a pretty big dose of momentum into this game, having won their three SEC tournament games by an average of 20 points -- including a 21 point thumping of a fellow NCAA tournament team, the Arkansas Razorbacks.

The strong play in Atlanta gave the Gators the #1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, a title they hope holds true all the way to the Final Four.  Florida will not have an easy road to the final weekend, though, as teams like Purdue, Arizona, Wisconsin, Maryland and Oregon stand in their way.

Purdue and Arizona will play this evening in to decides who will play the winner of this game.

Here are a few things I deem important to watch for this evening:

  • How well the Gators protect the ball this evening could show us their mindset for the rest of the tourney.  If Florida is able to not turn the ball over in this game, it will show us that they are a focused team and I feel that attitude will carry over into the rest of the tournament.

    Jackson State plays at a pretty fast pace -- they rank 39th in the country in adjusted pace. Florida, on the other hand, plays at a very average pace (178th in the country), so if the Gators can keep the game at their tempo in the halfcourt turnovers shouldn't be a problem...unless they're totally careless.

  • Team defense will be something to watch out for, seeing that this was the area that lacked during the end of the season slide.  Jackson State brings with them one of the most prolific scorers in the country this year in Trey Johnson, so how they handle this guy could be an indication of future defensive performances against dangerous players in this bracket.
  • Jackson State has a negative rebounding margin coming into this game.  The Gators big-men should feast on the glass this evening, including on the offensive end.  If they don't produce some second-chance points in this game, I will consider it a disappointment.  That is, unless they are making their shots and we won't have to grab offensive rebounds.

If you want running content regarding the late games of the NCAA tournament this evening, check out Addicted to Quack -- there will be plenty of analysis over there, including opinions from my fellow SB Nation writers.

Go Gators!