College Basketball East: Big Times in FloridaBy James F.
The state of Florida has long been known as a hotbed of college football. But college basketball is becoming, (or already has become) a pretty big deal in the Sunshine State. Billy Donovan’s Florida Gators have been to five Elite Eights and three Final Fours since the 2000 season, with two national championships in that span. The last two seasons, they have come oh-so-close to making consecutive Final Four trips, both years losing late leads in their Elite Eight games. This year, the Gators are hammering their SEC competition. They are +212 in their eight SEC games which is an average of over 26 points per game margin of victory.
On Saturday, the #4 Gators pounded the #16 Ole Miss Rebels 78-64 behind Erik Murphy with 19 points, Mike Rosario with 14, Scottie Wilbekin and Patric Young with 13 and Kenny Boynton with 9 points and 10 assists. With the #1 Michigan Wolverines and #2 Kansas Jayhawks both losing on Saturday, the Gators should move up even higher in this week’s poll. Florida is 18-2 overall and 8-0 in the SEC where they have totally dominated the competition. The Gators have trailed at the half only once in SEC play, 27-24 at the Georgia Bulldogs, and ended up winning that game by 17.
Agaisnt the Rebels, the Gators got out to a 35-15 first half lead before going in at halftime up 40-27. They grew that lead to 23 points in the second half at 60-37. Ole Miss got no closer than 13 points the rest of the way despite 25 points from Marshall Henderson.
The ACC is led by the #14 Miami Hurricanes after they went on the road twice this week and beat the Virginia Tech Hokies 73-64 and then won a thriller over the #19 North Carolina State Wolfpack 79-78. Reggie Johnson got a tip in with .8 left o the clock for the win which puts the Canes up two games in the ACC, normally dominated by schools from North Carolina. Miami is 17-3 overall and 8-0 in the ACC. They got 18 points from Durand Scott and 16 from Julius Gamble to beat the team may thought would win the ACC in the pre-season. The Wolfpack is now 16-6 and 5-4 in the ACC.
Miami will host the Boston College Eagles on Tuesday, who they beat in a close game earlier this season. They will host the North Carolina Tar Heels in a big game on Saturday.
With the two wins and with some of the top teams losing this week, the Hurricanes could possibly be in the Top Ten when the new polls come out on Monday. Basketball has never been a big deal at the school with five national championship in football, but after the Canes routed the #1 Duke Blue Devils a couple of weeks ago, the fans stormed the court. They expect a sellout crowd for the game on Saturday.