Florida, Ole Miss Seek Sweet 16 Opportunities

Andy Lyons

The SEC's remaining pair of teams could very well make up an eighth of the Sweet 16 at day's end.

RD. of 32

Minnesota Florida
6:10 pm ET, TNT
Record 21-12 27-7
Head-to-Head None
KenPom 18 1

Billy Donovan is going up against a familiar old foe today as he takes on Tubby Smith's Minnesota team.

The Golden Gophers are no pushover, despite their 11-seed and 12 losses on the season. Many of those losses came to highly ranked teams in the Big Ten, with Duke being their only non-conference stumble. They've taken down plenty of current tournament teams, including 1-seed Indiana and 3-seed Michigan State. That KenPom rank of 18 is no joke. It's not accurate, in that Minny isn't really the 18th-best team in the country, but it's not totally out of line.

As much as ever, the burden today will be on the Gators' front line of Patric Young and Erik Murphy. Minnesota is a tough team that is outstanding at rebounding. Its 56.9% rebounding percentage, one of the four factors of winning, is tops in the best league in America and fifth-best nationally. In games where Florida has struggled, including five of their seven losses, a failure to rebound well has been a major culprit. The Gophers are also 12th in the country in blocks per game. The Gators won't get a ton of quality good looks near the basket, so their shooters can't have a cold day from the field.

With that said, Minnesota is not a superlative offensive team. It can be efficient at times thanks to putbacks on rebounds, but it's not prolific. Its effective field goal percentage is just 137th nationally, and sub-55-point performances litter its loss ledger. The Gophers are a 33% team from three, so if Florida can take a lead, it will be difficult for Minnesota to mount a comeback.

If Florida shows up ready to rebound and play defense, it should be able to win just fine. The latter is a common occurrence; the former is not guaranteed. Don't expect another blowout like what the Gators did to Northwestern State. This may be a 3-11 matchup in seeding, but that doesn't really represent the reality of the game.

RD. of 32

La Salle Ole Miss
8:09 pm ET, TruTV
Record 23-9 27-8
Head-to-Head None
KenPom 49 29

Despite being a 12-seed and far closer in seeding to its opponent, Ole Miss probably has the better chance of winning today out of the SEC's squads.

La Salle is playing its third game in five days today, having been a First Four participant, although VCU proved a couple years ago that it doesn't necessarily mean anything. What is meaningful is that the Rebels are simply a better team in just about every area. Their offensive, defensive, and overall Pomeroy ratings are better, and its signature win (Florida) is better than La Salle's is (take your pick: K-State, Butler, or VCU).

With that said, Ole Miss actually has a little less of a cushion than it did against Wisconsin believe it or not. La Salle has a pretty good offense, and it will not have as dreadful a shooting day as the Badgers did on Friday. Ole Miss didn't light up the world in that one; a Badger team that shot even just 40% on the day would have been a far tougher task than the one that made only a single shot in four. Ole Miss has obviously beaten better teams lately with Marshall Henderson contributing nothing but bricks in the first half, but it would be best if he broke out of his pre-intermission slump.

The players that will probably have the best days for the Rebels very well could be Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway. La Salle is a poor rebounding team, so the two of them working the boards should give Ole Miss a healthy edge in this one. The Rebels should advance today if they play well, because their best is better than La Salle's best. It's not an automatic W, but it's closer to one than Florida's is today.

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