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Florida Gulf Coast Eagles vs. Florida State Seminoles: NCAA Tournament First Round Preview and Prediction

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It can't get much better for the fine folks in the state of Florida then having a grudge match between Florida State and Florida Gulf Coast in Orlando. Dunk City is back and people may remember the Eagles from the Atlantic Sun Conference for their fun style of basketball a few years ago. This year's version is just as deep and athletic. The problem for them is that Florida State has a lot of talent and a lot of length.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: FSU
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West Region: No. 14 Florida Gulf Coast Eagles (26-7) vs. No. 3 Florida State Seminoles (25-8)

When: 9:20 p.m. ET (Thursday)

Where: Amway Center (Orlando, Fla.)
TV: TNT

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Line: Florida State -12

Keys for Florida Gulf Coast

A good start is imperative as well as staying out of foul trouble. Demetris Morant is one of those big guys and he shoots almost 76 percent from the field. He's got to stay on the court for them to have any shot. If the Eagles can get a few dunks and easy baskets early, then I like their chances for an upset. They need to show they aren't intimidated playing a team from their own state. FGCU doesn't mind a higher-paced game considering they are 13-1 when scoring at least 80 points.

Keys for Florida State

The Seminoles have almost unparalleled depth and size. The Eagles have just two players that are taller than 6-foot-8 while FSU has four including two guys over seven feet. Florida State needs to get out and run early because allowing the higher seed to hang around is never good. FGCU will enter this thing rather confident so you want to crush that early. Finally, I want to take the game out of Leonard Hamilton's hands. I don't trust him as a head coach to make the right decisions late so if this has a healthy margin, then he can't mess things up.

Final Analysis

I am a fan of Florida State, but Leonard Hamilton scares me a ton. To me, this is a game between very similar opponents. Both are deep, both want to run, both have similar defensive efficiencies with the only major difference being the size. Florida Gulf Coast has the pieces to pick up the upset here and I think the Eagles come through. The Seminoles go down early and we fall in love with Dunk City again.

Prediction: Florida Gulf Coast 84, Florida State 81

— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Josephs prefers non-Power 5 college football and may be the only one wagering on the Sun Belt. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.

(Top photo courtesy of www.fgcuathletics.com)