Both the Florida Gators and the Texas A&M Aggies looked shaky during their opening round NCAA Tournament games on Thursday night, but both were able to advance to the next round.
The No. 6-seeded Gators (21-12) will now have to play in pretty much a road environment against the No. 3 Red Raiders on Saturday night as that game will be in American Airlines Center in Dallas. The winner will go on to play in the Sweet 16 in Boston next weekend.
East Region: No. 6 Florida (21-12) vs. No. 3 Texas Tech (25-9)
Time: 8:40 p.m. ET (Saturday)
Where: American Airlines Center (Dallas)
Keys for Florida
Florida is one of the most unpredictable teams in this year’s tournament. One minute, the Gators look like one of the best teams in the country and the next, they can have people wondering how they even got into the tournament at all.
Although the Gators don’t have a lot of size, they do attack the basket really well. If they’re going to advance past the Red Raiders, they will need to do the same against a stingy Texas Tech defense.
The Red Raiders have one of the nation’s top defenses as they rank third in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency at 92.1, according to KenPom.com. Florida also needs to make sure it gets balanced scoring from Jalen Hudson, Egor Koulechov and Chris Chiozza.
Keys for Texas Tech
Texas Tech isn’t as balanced as Florida but the Red Raiders have depth that they can use to their advantage. Chris Beard’s team has 10 players averaging more than 12 minutes per game. This allows Texas Tech to keep the same level of intensity allow the defense to put pressure on the opponent on both ends of the floor throughout the course of a game.
Florida, on the other hand, is just six deep as it mainly relies on production from the starters. Look for the Red Raiders to use their depth to their advantage.
The Red Raiders are 15th in the nation in points allowed at 64.6, while the Gators only score 69.2. So advantage Texas Tech.
Expect Keenan Evans, who leads the Red Raiders in scoring at 17.7 points per game, to be a big factor and as he has been clutch in key moments this season already.
Prediction: Texas Tech 72, Florida 68
— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.