7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Florida is one of two SEC men's basketball teams still playing, and a trip to the NIT's final four in Madison Square Garden is on the line tonight as the Gators face the Atlantic 10's George Washington.
The Colonials are a solid team, clocking in at 66th in the current KenPom ratings. The team was good enough to knock off NCAA Tournament 1-seed Virginia while inconsistent enough to lose by 21 to DePaul.
George Washington is a mirror image of the Gators in style. While UF's stingy defense rates 19th nationally in efficiency along side a less-great offense that's 89th in efficiency, the Colonials sport the 43rd-best offensive efficiency while managing just the 132nd rated defensive efficiency. Florida also prefers to go faster at 70 possessions per 40 minutes, while GW averages 67.3.
The Gators are going to really feel the absence of injured center John Egbunu, who's done for the season after having ligament surgery on his hand. Befitting the school's namesake, George Washington is a tall team with three of its top five scorers being at least 6'8". The 6'9" Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh leads the Colonials, and he's having an excellent NIT so far. In both of the team's games, he's logged double-doubles with at least 20 points. The 6'10" senior Kevin Larsen has also come up big, scoring 16 and 19 points, respectively, in those games as well.
Florida will counter mostly with its wings and guards, and the team's quickness there could be its best advantage. A player to watch for the Orange and Blue is KeVaughn Allen, whose scoring has often predicted outcomes for the team. Since December UF is just 2-7 when he fails to reach double digits, although one of the wins came on Sunday over Ohio State in the NIT.
Another key player will be 6'9" freshman Kevarrius Hayes, who played his most minutes of the season while starting in place of Egbunu in that game against the Buckeyes. He had a perfect shooting day, going 5/5 from the field and 4/4 from the free throw line to notch his first double digit scoring performance of the season with 14. He will need to have a similar game while also staying out of foul trouble, as all the Gators really have behind him for true big men is seldom-used power forward Schuyler Rimmer.
If Florida wins, it would be the team's first trip to Madison Square Garden in NIT play since 2008, when the team lost in the semifinals to UMass. The Gators would play the winner of another 2 vs. 4 game, as 2-seed San Diego State and 4-seed Georgia Tech are also playing tonight for a trip to New York. The other semifinalists are set, as 1-seed Valparaiso and 2-seed BYU have already booked their Big Apple tickets.