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Sweet 16 Preview Southeast Regional - (3) BYU (32-4) vs. (2) Florida (28-7)

Thursday, March 24 - 7:27 ET

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In a rematch of last season’s NCAA Tournament first round classic, the second-seeded Florida Gators will face the third-seeded BYU Cougars in Sweet 16 competition from the Bayou on Thursday evening. Last season, it was the Cougars who came out on top in a double-overtime thriller in Oklahoma City. In that riveting and mesmerizing rollercoaster of a game, BYU guard Jimmer Fredette poured in 37 points en route to BYU’s first tournament victory in 17 long years. Florida returns every starter from the 2010 squad that fell just short against Brigham Young, and the taste of elimination dealt the Gators by BYU remains fresh.

SEC Player of the Year Chandler Parsons is a gifted athlete who can do many things to help the Gators win a basketball game. An athletic backcourt of Kenny Boyton and Erving Walker will spread the Cougars thin on the defensive end. Walker’s heroics in a round of 32 win over UCLA provided the Gators with a spark. All eyes will be fixed upon the nation’s leading scorer, Fredette, who has only improved his image as an assassin during the first weekend of the tournament. Fredette is averaging 33 points a game and has demonstrated a flair for the big stage. BYU shot the ball tremendously in its round of 32 matchup with Gonzaga, hitting on 14 three-pointers in an 89-67 win that took the tournament by storm and served notice that BYU is very much a Final Four threat even without suspended center Brandon Davies.

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With that said, Davies’s absence could very well represent the difference in this game. Florida’s low-post presence was lacking the previous few seasons, when the Gators limped to two NIT appearances and their aforementioned first-round loss to BYU. However, coach Billy Donovan’s team has become an upper-tier force in college basketball because it has developed a truly dangerous set of pivot men. Vernon Macklin, a transfer from Georgetown, has finally ripened into an appreciably polished player with solid footwork and an understanding of how to use his body. Alex Tyus comes and goes, but he’s been able to play at a higher level this year for UF. Patric Young, a youthful but very rangy big man, played extremely well against UCLA and shows signs of becoming the Gators’ next great center in future seasons. If Florida can get the ball to its bigs, the Gators could lean against BYU and overpower the Cougars. However, if Florida’s guards make poor decisions – a frequent problem for the SEC’s best team – BYU’s backcourt will run wild and lead the Mountain West champion to the Elite Eight.

By Matt Zemek
DFN Sports Senior Staff Writer
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