NCAA Tournament Preview: Florida vs. Albany or Mount St. Mary’s

AP Photo/Steve Helber

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We Predict the Field

Patric Young
AP Photo/Steve Helber

1. Florida Gators (32-2, 18-0 SEC)-Florida became the first team ever to run through the SEC regular season and tournament undefeated. Now that’s saying something. The Gators are a legitimate national championship contender, and many consider this team the favorite to cut down the nets in April.

Florida has not lost since a Dec. 2 setback at Connecticut. Its only other loss came on November 17 against Wisconsin. The Gators have reeled off an incredible 26 consecutive wins. They’re led by a plethora of talented players, including slashing senior forward Casey Prather, who leads the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game. Point guard Scottie Wilbekin might be the team’s most important player. He averages 13 ppg and 3.7 apg.

Big man Patric Young is one of the most athletic interior players in the country and is an absolute beast inside. Michael Frazier II and Dorian Finney-Smith are both gifted scorers and playmakers.

KEY STATS:

3rd Points Allowed (57.9)

74th Field Goal Percentage (.463)

131st Rebounds per Game (35.6)

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Albany Great Danes (18-14, 9-7 America East)-It was another miraculous run for the Great Danes in the America East, as they crashed the Big Dance by knocking off the conference’s No. 1 and No. 2 seeds for the second straight year. This team is certainly battle-tested, and understands how to win in big games. Australian sensation Peter Hooley (15.7 ppg) leads the team in scoring, and 6-6 forward Sam Rowley (11.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg) is very effective on the inside. Albany is an excellent free throw shooting team, having made 18 of 19 in the A-East final.

Vermont (15-1), Stony Brook (13-3) and Hartford (10-6) finished with better conference records than the Danes, but Albany won six of seven down the stretch and three in a row to advance to the NCAA Tournament. The Great Danes probably don’t have what it takes to pull the upset in their first round game, but if they do, it’ll be because of their experience and defense.

KEY STATS:

290th Assists per Game (11.1)

289th Points per Game (65.9)

39th Points Allowed per Game (63.8)

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Mount St. Mary’s (16-16, 9-7 NEC)-The Mount upset top-seeded and dynastic Robert Morris to win the NEC title. The Colonials would have been a better representative for the league, having run through the NEC at 14-2 and with plenty of previous NCAA experience to rely upon.

A veteran backcourt keys the Mountaineers. Seniors Rashad Whack (17.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and Julian Norfleet (17.5 ppg, 5.4 apg) lead the team in scoring and make up a large part of their offense. Fellow senior guard Sam Prescott averages 11 points and 5 rebounds per game.

KEY STATS:

299th Rebounds per Game (32.2)

PREDICTION: Florida over Albany

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