Their game against the St. Bonaventure Bonnies — this is why they’re the Bonnies, by the way — on this Thursday night (~9:57 p.m., truTV or March Madness Live) pits the Gators against a very good mid-major team that has knocked off Rhode Island, Syracuse, and Maryland, and made a run at TCU in one of its mere seven losses this season.
The Bonnies have the sort of backcourt that fans tend to trust in March, with seniors Jaylen Adams and Matt Mobley forming a tandem that has already gotten St. Bonaventure its first NCAA Tournament win since 1970 despite that duo combining for fewer points than tweener forward Courtney Stockard in a Tuesday win over UCLA. And Adams and Mobley could well exploit a sometimes indifferent perimeter defense that has burned Florida time and again this year.
But Florida’s recent history in the NCAA Tournament has been one of smashing slippers belonging to all manner of Cinderellas.
East Tennessee State got run out of the building before it could be fit for glass a year ago. Dayton foundered in 2014. Florida Gulf Coast got its wings clipped a year prior. And Norfolk State fell in 2012.
The only Cinderellas to beat Florida in the NCAA Tournament this decade weren’t really Cinderellas, unless SEC foe South Carolina (in 2017) and defending national runner-up Butler (in 2011) count. And those games played out far more like heavyweights swinging in the ring than David slinging shots at Goliath.
This game is likely to feature a lot of shots, with both teams eager to drain from distance and both rosters stocked with explosive scorers. Adams and Chris Chiozza are two of the tournament’s best point guards, pitted against each other in a cruelly early contest. And neither team is that great on defense, though both tend to make their opponents work deep into the shot clock to score.
Mostly, this should be a good game. It’s a game I want the Gators to win, but not one that I am convinced they will — or even should — win. And those have been rarer for Florida in early rounds in recent years.
Here’s to embracing a bit more of the madness of March late on this night.