No telling what will happen to the Florida Gators vs. Wisconsin on Friday night, but it’s been a shockingly easy ride so far.
With a total victory margin of 41 points in wins over East Tennessee State and Virginia, the Gators rank fourth in program history in terms of domination on the way to the Sweet 16 round.
The 2012 Gators won their first two games in the NCAA tournament by a total of 60 points (plus-26 over Virginia and plus-34 over Norfolk State). That group, featuring Bradley Beal, Kenny Boynton and Patric Young, lost to Louisville in the Elite Eight.
Florida’s 2007 national championship team reached the Sweet 16 round with a total victory margin of 50 points (43 over Jackson State and seven over Purdue).
The Gators’ first national champions in 2006 had a 48-point edge over two opening opponents (26 over South Alabama and 22 over Wisconsin-Milwaukee).
Of course, it helps to have low-seeded teams as opponents in the opening rounds, but any NCAA tournament game is a potential face-plant. Mike White’s 2017 Gators don’t have a fistful of NBA players, like the championship teams of Billy Donovan. Also, this group had to beat a No. 5 seed on the way to the Sweet 16 round, which is more than was asked of those monster Gator teams listed above.
To this point, White’s only disappointment has been getting so little scoring from KeVaughn Allen, an All-SEC first-teamer, and Canyon Barry. They averaged 26 points per game as a pair during the regular season. In the NCAA tournament they are scoring less than half of that (5.5 points per game for Allen and 7.0 for Barry).
Get those two guys going against Wisconsin, plus the same overall defensive effort that has been a hallmark for the Gators this season, and there may still be another gear for Florida to hit.
The Badgers are tournament-tough, of course, and represent a major problem. Twice in the last three years Wisconsin reached the Final Four, including an appearance in the national title game against Duke in 2015. Florida has no experience to rival that, from the head coach on down.
Every year is different, however, and every matchup. Try this mindless trivia on for size.
Wisconsin won the 1941 NCAA tournament with a 39-34 victory over Washington State in the championship game. Virginia scored 39 points in the second round of the 2017 tournament and lost by 26 points to the Gators.