11 Dayton vs. 1 Florida, 6:09 pm ET, TBS
For the fourth straight year, Florida is in the Elite Eight. For the third time in the past nine tournaments, it's also facing the field's biggest Cinderella.
The fourth Elite Eight run is historic, as UF is only the third program to do that since 1980. Each of the other three runs ended here, though, so certainly the team is going to be feeling some pressure to win. It's not just that they're the No. 1 overall seed, which makes anything short of a Final Four feel like a disappointment. It's that they will want to avenge the past three teams' losses and finally break through with this core of players.
As for Cinderellas, the Gators are pretty good at putting them away. Florida went up against 11-seed George Mason in the 2006 Final Four, and it didn't have much trouble in a 73-58 win. Last year, UF played the only 15-seed ever to make the Sweet 16, and while it wasn't effortless, it put Florida Gulf Coast away 62-50. The only stumble against something of a Cinderella was the 2011 Elite Eight loss to 8-seed Butler, but the Bulldogs had played in the tournament final the year before (and were on their way to doing it again). They weren't some nobody trying to make a name for themselves, and 11-seed VCU was that year's biggest underdog success story anyway.
So, Dayton. The Flyers are probably closest to Pitt of the teams the Gators have played so far. They don't go at quite as slow a pace as the Panthers did, but they're far better than Albany is and aren't an uptempo team like UCLA was. They only scored 60 in their win over Ohio State, and neither team made it even that high in their win over Syracuse. If Florida doesn't try to run up and down the floor, then Dayton won't be forcing the issue on its side either.
Florida is the better team here, and it doesn't have a size disadvantage as is sometimes the case with this year's team. If the Gators just come out and play their game, they should be able to win without too much extra drama. If the weight of the past years' failures in this round are weighing on them, then Dayton definitely could pull the upset. UF is not so far ahead of Ohio State and Syracuse that we can dismiss UD's close wins in those games as being irrelevant towards this one.
The good news is that the Gators' shots were falling much better two days ago than in the two rounds before. Florida should win this game, and jitters aside, I don't see many reasons why it won't.