March Madness Round 64 Preview
St. Bonaventure vs. Florida
Sixth-seeded Florida hopes to find the best version of itself when it begins play in the NCAA Tournament against No. 11 seed St. Bonaventure in the first round of the East Region on Thursday in Dallas. The Gators owns impressive victories over Gonzaga, Cincinnati, Kentucky (two) and Auburn, but dropped five of their last eight games against non-NCAA teams before falling in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals against Arkansas.
“We have competitors, there’s no doubt about that. We see that every day at practice,” Florida senior guard Igor Koulechov told Floridagators.com. “Where we’re lacking sometimes is with our emotion.” As Koulechov said, it’s back to the rollercoaster for the Gators as they try to put strong performances on both sides of the floor together and make a run with a capable group that boasts four players averaging at least 11 points. St. Bonaventure will create quite a challenge after the Bonnies knocked off UCLA 65-58 on Tuesday in the First Four at Dayton, Ohio, for its school-record 26th win and first NCAA Tournament victory since 1970. St. Bonaventure advanced without big nights from its leading scorers – senior guards Jaylen Adams (19.4) and Matt Mobley (18.4), who finished with 22 points combined against the Bruins.
TV: 9:57 p.m. ET, truTV
ABOUT ST. BONAVENTURE (26-17): Mobley recorded 14 points Tuesday, but was 2-for-7 from 3-point range and 4-for-12 overall, while Adams missed 14 of his 16 field goals attempts and all five of his tries from behind the arc. Courtney Stockard (13.3 points) stepped up by scoring 26 and is averaging 23.8 over the last five contests, but the 6-5 junior lauded the team’s defense Tuesday. “We played the same defense all year,” Stockard told reporters. “UCLA is a good offensive team, high-scoring team. But. … we did a good job taking away their knowns, making them take contested shots.”
ABOUT FLORIDA (20-12): The Gators got hammered on the boards against Arkansas 43-28 and shot 41.7 percent from the field after winning the final three regular-season games in impressive fashion. Junior guard Jalen Hudson (15.3 points) scored 22.7 per game during those wins, but went 2-for-9 from the field against Arkansas while Koulechov (13.6 points) missed nine of 11 shots from the floor against the Razorbacks. Junior guard KeVaughn Allen (11.3) is averaging 14.8 points over the last four contests and experienced senior point guard Chris Chiozza (11.2 points, team-high 6.1 assists) runs the show.
1. The Gators have played at least four games each of the last five times they reached the NCAA Tournament.
2. Adams went over 1,900 points (1,901) in his career last time out and is 12 assists shy of 600.
3. Koulechov has shot 20 percent or worse from the field in three of his last five contests.