It’s March Madness to the fullest and the state of Florida is represented in both the NCAA and NIT tournaments.
Florida, Miami and newcomer Florida Gulf Coast have earned trips to the NCAA. The Gators are in with a 26-7 record and a SEC regular season championship. Miami is 27-6 and won both the regular season and the tournament in ACC play while Gulf Coast is in with a 24-10 mark and the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament Championship.
All three teams will play Friday with Florida meeting Northwestern State of Louisiana, Miami playing Pacific, and Gulf Coast playing Georgetown.
In all, there are 68 teams invited to what they term the Big Dance. This year those 68 teams come from 32 different states and the District of Columbia.
North Carolina and California led the states with five entrants each. New York, Indiana and Pennsylvania each are represented with four teams.
By this time next week only 16 of the 68 teams will be playing.
My prediction is those 16 teams will be Louisville, Oklahoma State, Michigan State, Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas State, Arizona, Ohio State, Kansas, Michigan, UCLA, Georgetown, Indiana, UNLV, Marquette and Miami.
As for the state schools, I feel Miami can survive the first round in their bracket with wins over Pacific and Illinois, which has Havana lad Sam McLaurin on the team.
Florida should knock off Northwestern State but I don’t think the Gators will survive UCLA because the Gators cannot survive a close game.
Florida Gulf Coast will be gone in the first round as the bracket-makers did them no favors pitting them against Georgetown.
I’ll continue my picks to the final four next week and will not be surprised if at least half, if not more, of my Sweet Sixteen picks are gone.
As for the NIT, Florida State had kind of a late season spurge and rightfully got themselves in place for an NIT bid.
The Seminoles hosted a tough Louisiana Tech team Tuesday and with a win will meet either Southern Miss or Charleston Southern in a second round game at a to-be-determined site and date.
Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, Iowa, BYU, UMass, Tennessee and Arizona State are some of the other notables in the tournament that is always a fun and interesting event.